Friday, March 19, 2010

Bumgarner, DeWitt, Toronto Closer

It's time for me to openly answer some questions that have been sent to our mailbag and we'll continue to work in as many of these as possible in the coming weeks:

Q. Has Madison Bumgarner's spring cost him a spot in the rotation?

A. Yes, it's certainly in serious jeopardy anyway.  I often emphasize that you can't put too much weight into spring training statistics when it comes to forecasting ability but even if we don't do that, teams do when handing out roles on the big league squad for April.  In this case, it's understandable too as even in the small sample size of seven innings, Bumgarner has walked seven and struck out none and that's an alarming ratio even over a short stretch (to appreciate how bad that is, imagine how often you would see that sort of line in a regular season boxscore).  We weren't forecasting him to be an instant superstar, as he appeared to be in September of last year, but we didn't expect this sort of terrible spring either.  I expect he's headed to the minors to start the season unless he puts in a couple of dominating performances very soon.

Q. Who plays second for the Dodgers?

A. Those who subscribe to our extra optional spring training sets will notice I just upgraded Blake DeWitt to over 300 at bats in his latest forecast.  In other words, no matter what happens this spring, he's not outright guaranteed to get the most at bats here because being declared the second baseman in April (which he now seems poised to be) doesn't automatically get you the job in June.  So, even if Joe Torre says that DeWitt is his guy, I'm not prepared to go higher than about 380-385 at bats in my opening day forecast as he still projects as a mid .240s hitter with only occasional power, no speed and questionable defense.  In short, I could see him winning the job in March and losing it by May or June.

Q. I notice you've got a lot of saves projected for Toronto but no clear closer. Is this because you believe that they will go with a committee or you're just not sure who the closer will be?

A. You're much closer on the latter part of your question and this was sort of verified this week when Jays manager Cito Gaston openly implied that while he remained undecided, he'd rather give the job to one guy by the end of the spring than have uncertain roles handed out.  If I'm trying to handicap it right now, I would put Gregg slightly ahead of Frasor with the lefty Scott Downs (who has arguably looked the best of the three this spring) barely behind those two.  Just as I said above in relation to the Dodgers' second base position, even if the team declares an outright closer for the start of the season, it doesn't guarantee that player the role two months down the line if he doesn't do the job well.

If you're in an upcoming draft or auction and are so desperate for saves that you're searching staffs like Toronto's, it would be a good idea to hedge your bets here by doing everything you can to pick up more than one of the candidates.  Chances are good that if Frasor was owned last year, though, his previous owner will have locked him up for this year.


Later next week, I'm going to talk a bit about optimal bidding in keeper leagues and how I handle adjusting for the quality of my keeper list.  While I'll use 2010 examples and update my thoughts to remind about perception and never wasting unnecessary dollars just because a player is projected to do well, if you simply can't wait for that piece because of an upcoming auction, you'll definitely want to check out our long-archived essay On Paying 80% of Projected Value.

By the way, we've now assembled most of our participants for my mock auction experiment (invitations were sent out and accepted earlier this week and we're down to just two spots left as we await responses from aternates).  To expedite what is already likely to be an extended auction, to be held the weekend of March 27-28, we are going to keep the actual event private but in the week following the draft, we will not only publish results of the auction here for all to see but I will also explain how the theoretical bidding method I was using worked, what problems I detected in the approach and so on.  We had so many willing participants that I wished there had been room for more than 14 participants but an 80-team league just didn't feel right to me...