Posts tagged toronto blue jays

R.A. Dickey 2013 Player Profile

What is so funny about inconsistency?

What is so funny about inconsistency?

I believe that Willie Stargell summed up knuckleballs best when he said “Throwing a knuckleball for a strike is like throwing a butterfly with hiccups across the street into your neighbor’s mailbox.” The pitch was originally invented to minimize the spin of the ball in flight, which causes an erratic, unpredictable motion.  Originally viewed as a “trick” pitch, the knuckleball is developed by pitchers who are converted to using the motion after experiencing limited success with conventional pitches, such as the case of R.A. Dickey.

 

Dickey was originally drafted by the Texas Rangers in the first round of the 1996 draft. After noticing that he was missing a ligament in his right elbow joint, doctors were surprised that he could pitch at all, much less effectively to major league hitters. After making his debut in 2001, he experienced only marginal success for the next several years, often being called back and forth from AAA. He switched clubs during the next few years, appearing for both the Minnesota Twins and Seattle Mariners, before being signed by the New York Mets in 2010.

 

Since 2010 Dickey has experienced major success in the National League, posting an ERA under 3.28 in each of the last three seasons, including posting a sparkling 2.73 ERA last season, the cherry atop of his 20 win, Cy-Young Award winning season. After taking a step back and looking at his career, one would wonder what took him so long to start succeeding and if this newfound success is sustainable. Viewed by most major publications going into the 2013 season as one of the top 20 pitchers in baseball, its widely been assumed that his 2012 performance is repeatable. But is that really the case? Knuckleball pitchers can often experience enormous amounts of success in any given season before retreating back to mediocrity, with Tim Wakefield being a good example.

 

Wakefield, similar to Dickey, has experienced successful seasons in the past. He won more than 15 games four times in his career, but each time had at least a season of mediocrity in between, including one stretch from 1999-2005 with barely winning 12 games. Since throwing the knuckleball is incredibly difficult to control for an extended period of time, it has developed the reputation of being a “feel” pitch which can quickly desert the hurler at any point in time.  Such is the case with Dickey this spring, who in his recent World Baseball Classic debut, was absolutely lit up by the country of Mexico, despite them not having a very star-studded lineup. Moving from the NL to the AL East is always going to negatively impact a pitcher’s ERA and WHIP, so the concerns that people have about Dickey repeating last year’s 2012 campaign are absolutely reasonable.

 

Dickey’s supporters like to point out that he isn’t a “traditional” knuckleball pitcher since his throwing speed is greatly increased compared to others that have thrown the pitch in the past (Dickey can top out close to 85MPH, whereas other knuckleballers never broke 72MPH). Although this sounds good in theory, other pitches that are thrown have great deals of movement and also vary in speed such as curveballs and sliders. Batters have adjusted to those in the past, much as I believe that they will adjust to Dickey in 2013. Regardless of how the pitch looks getting into the strike zone, it will still need to get there at some point, somehow.

 

I firmly believe that we can expect a great deal of regression from Dickey in this upcoming season, especially since the track record of knuckleball pitchers, much like the pitch itself, is entirely too random to be trusted. I would much rather draft a proven pitcher around Dickey’s ADP (92.22 as of 3/10/13) such as Zack Grienke (90.28), Roy Halladay (92.77) or CC Sabathia (103.37) rather than relying on lightning striking twice. Whereas I don’t see Dickey completely falling apart this season, I would definitely expect a drop in wins and a significant spike in ERA and WHIP. Although hitters have always had a tough time succeeding against the pitch (another great quote describing this is Charley Lau, who said “There are two theories on hitting the knuckleball. Unfortunately, neither of them works.”) I would still recommend to draft Dickey with caution! Fantasy Trade 411’s Mike Gianella currently has Dickey penciled in for the following stat line in 2013:

 

15 Wins, 3.80 ERA, 1.27 WHIP, 185 Ks.

 

A veteran fantasy sports player/commissioner for the better part of a decade, I am a contributing writer for several major fantasy websites including FantasyTrade411.com, Rotowire.com and Going9baseball.com. I am always willing to share my advice and opinions on your questions and the latest fantasy news. Feel free to contact me with any sports related inquires on twitter @Roto_Wizard, or by e-mail at RotoWizard01@yahoo.com.

 

Edwin Encarnacion 2013 Player Profile

Everything came together for E5 in 2012, but is it repeatable?

Have you ever experienced a moment where the stars all align? Where everything seems to go your way and nothing bothers you? For most of us those moments are few and far between, but I’m pretty sure that Edwin Encarnacion had a permanent “moment” in 2012. All of the issues that had held him back in prior years (e.g., lack of ABs due to health issues, extended cold streaks, a minor league demotion) were in the rear view mirror for “E5” last year.  Encarnacion has always been one of those “what if” players for me. What if he could simply just stay healthy for a full year? What if those hot streaks could last just a little bit longer? What kind of numbers could he put up? Those questions were answers loudly and clearly in 2012, as Encarnacion put up one heck of a statistical season:

 

.280 AVG 152 H 93 R 42 HR 110 RBI 13 SB

 

Cory Schwartz managed to ride him, along with a solid roster, to a TOUT Wars mixed league title in 2012, and his article “E5: A Love Story” was featured in The Fantasy Baseball Guide 2013. Schwartz (along with many others) has long been an Encarnacion supporter, and was handsomely rewarded last year. But it is possible for him to even come close to repeating those numbers this year? Or should we expect a ton of regression and over-spending? In my estimation, 2012 was probably the peak of his production, but his 2013 campaign should also be very strong, providing he can stay on the field for 525 + plate appearences.

 

Although I could point to many reasons why I believe that Encarnacion’s 2012 numbers are (mostly) repeatable, two currently stick out in my mind:
 

  1. Nothing that he demonstrated in 2012 was a “new” skill to him, other than stealing 10+ bases.
  2. His 2012 first and second half splits were VERY similar, meaning that he didn’t suddenly flip a switch in September or October. He was consistently good ALL season long.

 

As I mentioned earlier, “E5” has always had his share of both critics and supporters. After a solid 2008 season in which he hit 26 HRs with 68 RBIs, many wondered if he would be capable of taking that “next step” in his development the following season. Encarnacion struggled mightily under the hype, posting only a .225 AVG with 13 HRs before being demoted back to the minor leagues for a stretch of time. He also started to develop the “injury bug” which ended up costing him 81 days with a fractured wrist and knee soreness. Many wondered if this constant see-sawing back and forth between AAA and the MLB suggested if he was just one of those “quadruple A” players that couldn’t demonstrate consistent success for a multi-year stretch. Encarnacion teased his fantasy owners again in 2010, posting 21 HRs in only 96 games played before missing another 50 days with a sprained wrist and shoulder. Although he bounced back and mostly avoided the DL in 2011, his owners were still left wondering… what if.

 

Then came 2012.

 

Finally reaching 500+ ABs for the first time since 2008, Encarnacion silenced all critics in a major way with an outstanding first half of the year. Despite being snubbed as an All-Star selection, he posted a .289 AVG with 22 HRs and 55 RBIs. The second half of the season provided equally impressive statistics as he put up a .271 AVG with 20 HRs and 55 RBIs.

 

As a fantasy baseball writer, when you attempt to predict regression for a player in an upcoming season, its common to point to a particular statistic that seems out of place, or lucky. I can’t really do that with Encarnacion. Sure, his HR totals were higher than previous years, but he’s put up 23 HRs in three of the past five seasons, including one where he barely accumulated 360 AB. Toronto has a bolstered lineup in 2013 complete with Jose Reyes, Melky Cabrera and a healthy Jose Bautista. This should provide plenty of RBI opportunities and runs for him. His batting average was slightly higher than years past, but not terribly out of line. Bottom line? I expect him not to fully repeat his gaudy 2012 numbers, but I don’t predict a severe amount of regression.

 

In our 2013 draft guide, Mike Gianella penciled E5 for the following projected season:
 
.261 AVG 34 HR 98 RBI 11 SB

 

Here’s hoping the stars continue to align for E5.
 
A veteran fantasy sports player/commissioner for the better part of a decade, I am a contributing writer for several major fantasy websites including FantasyTrade411.com, Rotowire.com and Going9baseball.com. I am always willing to share my advice and opinions on your questions and the latest fantasy news. Feel free to contact me with any sports related inquires on twitter @Roto_Wizard, or by e-mail at RotoWizard01@yahoo.com.

 

Brett Lawrie 2013 Player Profile

Brett Lawrie PhotoBack in 2008, while Brett Lawrie was playing high school baseball, he was drafted by the Milwaukee Brewers with the 16th overall pick.  Two years later he was traded to the Toronto Blue Jays for starting pitcher Shaun Marcum.  It wasn’t until August 4, 2011, that Lawrie was called up to the big leagues after Travis Snider was optioned to Triple-A.  Just as his wheels started to spin a fractured finger ended his season prematurely.  However, the proof was in the pudding with Lawrie’s .293 BA, 9 HRs, 25 RBIs, 26 Rs and 7 SBs in just 8 attempts; it is important to note that these statistics were amassed in only 43 games.  It appeared as though Toronto’s trade for the blue chip prospect would yield a high return on their investment.

 

Fast forwarding to 2012, Brett Lawrie had a season that he would probably rather forget.  In 494 ABs Lawrie produced a .273 BA, 11 HRs, 48 RBIs, 73 Rs and 13 SBs.  While this is not a horrible stat line by any stretch of the imagination, the 22 year old (at that time) was expected to replace Jose Bautista on the corner infield and continue his growth.

 

Lawrie’s Batting Eye (Walks / Strikeouts) remained consistent at 0.38% over both halves of the season.  However, players in that range, on a 5 year average dating back to 2008, have only batted approximately .258 for the season.  This tells us that his .293 BA during the 2011 season came as a result of small sample size and that Lawrie is really probably more of a .260 hitter, unless 2012 can be viewed as an abnormal season in and of itself.  He also tends to hit a lot of ground balls (50% GB rate) which is good for players like Jose Reyes and Dustin Pedroia who utilize their speed to get on base.  However, Lawrie’s stolen bases have dropped each year since 2010 in Triple-A beginning at 24 and finishing last year with 13.  At only 23 years of age it would seem that as he gets stronger his weight will increase and with that single digit stolen bases become a very real possibility.

 

Another telling comparison demonstrates that Lawrie is still learning the game and may be a couple years away from being a high impact player.  In 2012, Lawrie’s first half stat line looked like this: .297 BA, 8 HRs, 33 RBIs, 48 Rs and 11 SBs.  That projected over the course of a full season would be: .297 BA, 16 HRs, 66 RBIs, 96 Rs and 22 SBs.  The full season projection reminds me very much of Alex Gordon’s 2011 breakout campaign.  However, Lawrie’s second half stat line looked like this: .197 BA, 3 HRs, 15 RBIs, 25 Rs and 2 SBs.  In every single category we saw a significant decline to what would eventually derail his season.  The wheels simply fell off this youngster as he had serious trouble hitting right handed pitching (.697 OPS).  Let me remind you that Lawrie himself is a right handed hitter so he will be seeing his fair share of right handed arms in the future.

 

The projected opening day starting lineup for the Blue Jays looks like this right now: Jose Reyes (SS), Melky Cabrera (OF), Jose Bautista (OF), Edwin Encarnacion (DH), Brett Lawrie (3B), Colby Rasmus (OF), Adam Lind (1B), J.P. Arencibia (C) and Emilio Bonifacio (2B).  It’s not hard to see why many Blue Jays’ fans are very excited about the upcoming season.  The beginning of the lineup through Lawrie is stacked in terms of fantasy relevancy.  Even the back of the order following Lawrie has plenty of power built into the likes of Rasmus, Lind and Arencibia.  Knowing this, it still appears as though Lawrie could be batting out of the wrong spot in the order.  Looking at previous seasons he appears better suited as a player that is driven in as opposed to a player doing the driving; oddly enough though the Blue Jays have him batting 5th in the lineup which is traditionally a position of power.  One might wonder if Lawrie is better suited at this stage of his career to bat further down in the order because his low batting average and propensity to ground into double plays won’t warrant him moving up.

 

There is no obvious intention to make Brett Lawrie out to be a bust so early in his career.  Lawrie has demonstrated flashes of the elite talent that got him drafted 16th overall back in 2008.  Fantasy owners may benefit though from remaining patient and utilizing a wait and see approach with him while he puts it all together.  Sometimes the temperance of expectations is what allows fantasy owners to draft players the year of the breakout as opposed to being there one year too early.

 

Joe Costello is a staff writer for www.FantasyTrade411.com and can be reached on Twitter @jcswigga to answer any fantasy baseball or football questions.  I am also available to answer any commissioner related questions as I currently serve as League President for both baseball and football leagues.  You know what’s better than winning my own league?  Helping you win yours…