Baseball Musings from Week 5

As we get closer to closing the book on the first full month of baseball, Daniel Port has some thoughts about Week 5!

Welcome to Week 5 of my various musings and ramblings on fantasy baseball, fandom, and the sport as a whole! This week, The thoughts abounded for sure. Let me know what you think, and please don’t hesitate to reach out to me in the comments or on Twitter if you want to continue the conversation on any of these topics! With that, let’s jump right in!


Identifying the Strengths and Weaknesses of Your Team


I often like to talk about process here at Pitcher List. It’s so easy to get bogged down in the day-to-day lineup setting and FAAB budgets and forget to take some time to step back and look at the big picture with an eye to the end game. Obviously, you have to manage every day — you can’t lose sight of that either, but good in-season managing takes a balance of both. One thing I try to do at least once a week is make a self-assessment of my team to determine its strengths and weaknesses. I’ll put out my full list of things I look at, but first I want to explain that you need to look at it not just from a binary strength/weakness designation, but you need to also determine whether or not you have a surplus in those areas.  Could you afford to lose an asset in that area and still call it a strength? I find this thought process to be immensely helpful when I start thinking about trades in the next upcoming weeks. It’s also worth noting that things are different for points leagues. For the most part, I break down points leagues by points per game and how many games and just kinda take it from there. Here are the areas I try to evaluate my team in terms of strengths and weaknesses:

Scoring Categories – I start with each of the categories that count towards winning every week. This will need to be a bit more tailored to your specific league, but I start with where I rank overall in that category. Don’t over-focus on how many weeks you’ve won the category, as much of that is simply a matter of timing. Counting categories like Rs, HRs, Ks, Ws, RBIs, SBs, etc. are not linear. You’re not guaranteed the same amount each week — some weeks you might get three home runs from a player, the next you get none. For this reason, I take an overall view of the categories. As long as you end up in the top five in the category I think you can safely start calling that a strength. If you end up in the top three that’s when I start thinking I have a solid surplus being built.

Positions – Do I have a position that I feel like isn’t holding up its end of the bargain? I take a real deep look at the specific player. Are they underperforming or injured? Are they more accumulators where their contributions tend to fly more under the radar?

Bench – I then look at my bench and see if I don’t have at least one high upside play and one solid multi-positional backup along with a handful of solid or high upside SPs. If I am lacking in one of these areas, then I consider my bench to be a weakness.

Outside Categories – Finally I look at some statistics that can help determine why I might be lacking in a certain area, and evaluate if improving those stats can then improve the category. For example, if I’m hurting in Rs I might try to look at my team’s OBP or the total number of plate appearances and see if there is some connection. Let’s say I’m losing Ks every week; perhaps it has more to do with a lack of innings pitched than if my pitchers are getting strikeouts. That sort of thing.

Once I’ve finished this then I take and I create a list of all my strengths and weaknesses and where I have a surplus. Then I go shopping. Having a clear idea of what you need and where you are already set can really help you make better moves in trades or on the waiver wire.


The Super Two Deadline


I hate the Super Two, so does pretty much everyone else (other than team owners). We know that it is supposed to be somewhere in the middle of June, but it’s different for every team and the individual deadlines can be as much as a week apart.  I was trying to figure what prospects I wanted to keep an eye for a June call-up and I was finding it hard to plan out because I was concerned that the moment I went with one player, a different one would get called up earlier for no reason other than they had an earlier deadline. A week doesn’t sound like much, but it can make a huge difference when you are this far from it. Yet this is not the real reason that I want to talk about this. What I want to discuss is transparency. One thing I’ve always appreciated about the NFL is that they recognize fantasy’s potential to both help the sport grow by getting casual fans interested in the game.  So over the years, they have made new rules to help increase transparency on things from injured players’ status to when coaches had to announce who was starting or not playing.  I feel like MLB having things like the Super Two being so unclear is just one more barrier to more casual fans becoming interested in fantasy baseball and baseball itself.


Matt Olson, Axe-handle Bats, and Lizard Tape


This one comes by request from Dan, one of our discord members who wanted to know more about Axe-handle bats and what they meant for Matt Olson. Yesterday Matt Olson took batting practice for the first time since breaking the hamate bone in his hand, which signals a huge step in his rehab, but there has been a lot of talk about how he plans to limit pain and discomfort in the area throughout the season. The hamate bone sits in a really delicate spot for a batter and can cause a lot of issues in their swing, so it’s important to make sure that the hitter is protecting it and keeping it comfortable. The first thing Olson was going to try using was a so-called Axe-handle bat that is rapidly becoming popular throughout the MLB, especially among players that have suffered hand or wrist injuries. Initially, the idea behind the bat was specifically to tackle the problems surrounding hamate injuries, as the traditional knob on a bat can put a lot of pressure on the hamate bone — especially if you wrap your bottom hand around the knob, as many players are taught to do these days for extra leverage. I’m fascinated by the idea of innovating the design of the traditional baseball bat and excited to see what the future holds for the bats themselves. Players such as Mookie Betts and George Springer are huge proponents of the bats, so you never know.

Back to Matt Olson. So in this instance, he tried the Axe-handle bat and, according to Julian McWilliams, a beat writer for the A’s, it didn’t do the job. Instead, he’s going to stick with his standard bat and wrap the knob in Lizard Tape.  This is intended to pad the knob a bit and prevent it from putting pressure into that area of his hand. I’m not a doctor, nor have I played one on TV, but I am going to assume that the A’s training staff is alright with this change and will be monitoring Olson as he moves to a rehab assignment. It’s definitely something to keep an eye on as he works his way back into game shape and starts getting into MLB games. I’ll update this if  I see or hear anything more. I hope that clarifies things, Dan!


Matt Chapman


From one Matt on the A’s to another! Coming into the season I was building a reputation as a Chapman stan and I was by no means alone in that bandwagon. The fact that he reminded me (and everyone else in the industry) of Nolan Arenado was fun, as I won my first fantasy championship in 2015 when I used my last draft pick to snag a young, underperforming (at the time) 3B prospect for the Rockies. It’s been really fun to watch that transformation happen again. It’s worth noting as well that so far most of Chapman’s breakout (.296/.388/.990 with 8 HRs) has been through an increased BB% (11.5%!) as that slight uptick in Launch Angle we all clamored for in the offseason hasn’t even happened yet! That means there could still be better things to come! One of my favorite things about fantasy baseball is seeing the next generation of players who will move into the top tier and it’s rapidly becoming a possibility that next year we might already be talking about Chapman as one of those guys. It’s just fantastic.


Rhys Hoskins and Pitchers Targeting Hitters Coming to a Head


I know I talked about bat flips last week and why they’re good for the sport. I wanted to be done with it; I had said my peace, but then Jacob Rhame tried to murder Rhys Hoskins. This is what I’m talking about. Watch the video in the link. That’s a 97 MPH fastball right at Hoskins’ dome. There just can’t be any place in the game for that. Now yes, Rhame got suspended for it, but it was only two games! Relief pitchers go two games without pitching all the time; that’s not an actual deterrent. This isn’t an issue of sportsmanship anymore. We’re literally talking about a pitcher attempting to hurt a defenseless batter. MLB even said in the press release for the suspension that they believed that it was intentional. Player safety has to come to first and if your plan is to use suspensions as the form of deterrents then they have to count. That pitch could have ended Hoskins’ career. Heck, at 97 MPH it could have ended his life.  Players take the risk that they could get hurt by a wayward pitch, but they should not have to prepare for someone intentionally attempting to hurt them.  This is becoming a real problem and one that MLB can’t handle the same way they always have. They need a realistic, new solution now ASAP before someone gets seriously hurt.


Baseball and a Lack of Internal Policing Built into the Game


I do want to make a point on the other side of things as well briefly. After college, I played rugby for about five years. While I am a broad-shouldered squat dude, perfectly built for rugby, I was still only 5’9″ and about 165 pounds. This meant that even though I was a wing (shorter, fast players that play on the sidelines of the field — kinda like wide receivers without the downfield passing) that I was sharing the field with guys north of 6’5″ who outweighed me by 75 to 100 pounds. If those guys wanted to sneak in a cheap shot on me or attempt to hurt me, there wasn’t much I could do about it. Every team has an enforcer though. One of their guys blindsided me and my team’s enforcer had my back to let them know that they were getting the same back in kind. I didn’t really like it per se, but that’s how the game worked. As far as I understand it, hockey works much the same way. Now, this sounds a bit like I’m advocating for pitching at players and I want to make clear that this is not that at all. What I mean to say is that contact sports like rugby, football, hockey, or even basketball have the physical outlet for dealing with aggression within the game itself. It’s built right into the game. Baseball doesn’t work that way, and it shouldn’t, but it is worth investigating how we solve built up aggression that comes into play during baseball when there is no natural outlet for that aggression built into the game. That’s the reality of it. Maybe it is just teaching the next generation of players that striking a guy out is better than hitting him.  Maybe it takes greater deterrents. Maybe we should give each team one timeout to be called where the pitcher and the offending player get dressed in those big, blow up, sumo wrestler suits and the duke it out for three minutes. I dunno.


Evaluating Umpires


Currently in baseball, there’s no real manner of evaluating the performance of an umpire and, honestly, I’m okay with that. I don’t blame them for not wanting one in place and I totally get MLB not having one. The NBA and NFL crap on their refs all the time and it’s not like there have been radical changes in the quality of their calls. They’re human beings and are allowed to be imperfect. So I don’t think MLB should have one, especially in a sport where if a player manages to perform just one out of three times they’re considered good.  I do wonder if we, as analysts, need a system. This is not so we can bash their performances or complain about them publicly as we do now; this is so we can better evaluate hitters and pitchers.

I think it’s nuts that if batter strikes out looking at a pitch that should have been called a ball, or one that had been called a ball previously in the game, we act as if they have done something wrong. It’s why I will rarely blame a player for arguing balls and strikes with an ump, especially in the age of arbitration, where they know every little thing is coming back at them. So when a player gets rung up for a bad call, why do we hold it against them? I think we need to develop a way to factor in how umpires affect the game, and in the long-term better evaluate the true skills of a player. Instant replay went a long way to help ensure a bad call by an umpire (who is human and makes mistakes just like the rest of us) doesn’t end up coming to haunt a player when it comes time to evaluate his performance. I think this is an area where we can do the same.


Just a Few Feet of Separation


On Thursday nights I play on a beer league softball team in Boulder, Colorado. During this past week’s game, one of our best players was absolutely on fire as he hit the upper half of the fence multiple times on the fly. Currently it sits somewhere around 60 or so degrees in Boulder and when we were having a beer after the game he lamented to me that if he had hit those a month or so later (when the temperature starts to creep up into the 70s) or in July (when it sits around 90 degrees every single day) that at least one of them would have likely gotten over the fence. One of our other teammates joked they should just count them as home runs. That got me thinking. No, MLB shouldn’t just count everything that hits the wall as a home run, but it did make me think about how often we see a ball bounce off the wall a foot from being a home run. It happens all the time.  Any number of factors outside of any player’s control can either cost a ball that last foot. Which way was the wind blowing, what was the barometric pressure that day, heck — was that ballpark’s fence a little deeper than that of other parks? I wonder if there should be like a deep 2B/shallow HR category that is made of up all doubles that hit off the upper third of the wall or clear the fence at an equal distance. Perhaps we could even include balls in play that would have been a home run, but they were caught over the wall.  This way we can get a better idea of the ebb and flow of a player’s power by getting a sense of how many balls they hit that could have gone the other way. Heck, we don’t even count how many times a ball was on the back half of the warning track. Ten more feet and those are HRs.

Thanks so much, everyone, that’s it for Week 5! I’ll see you next week where I’ll have some first month observations for us to discuss!

(Photo by Samuel Stringer/Icon Sportswire)

Daniel Port

Daniel is a Fantasy Baseball writer, Brewer, and Theatrical Technician, located in Denver, Colorado. A lifelong fan of baseball and the Cleveland Indians since before Albert Belle tried to murder Fernando Vina, he used to tell his Mom he loved her using Sammy Sosa's home run salute, has a perfectly reasonable amount of love for Joey Votto and believes everything in life should be announced using bat flips. If you want to talk baseball, beer, or really anything at all you can find him on twitter at @DanielJPort !

3 responses to “Baseball Musings from Week 5”

  1. Mike P says:

    I get your point on the NFL injury report but there is no way the NFL bigwigs make decisions based on what is best for fantasy. In the last 2 years they removed the “questionable” tag from the IR. If a major sport changes a rule that benefits fantasy players, it’s dumb luck. They may get that fantasy helps TV ratings but fantasy is way down on the list of importance.

  2. Ro says:

    Great Daniel and yeah the mlb is waiting for someone to die, it’s horrible.

  3. Nathan Porter says:

    Do you think Hoskins could pursue criminal or legal charges against Rhame?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Account / Login