Saturday, March 30, 2013

NL King - Patience Patience Patience

Okay the season is about to get under way and already from a few of my freinds I hear the angst over certain setbacks with their team. Everyone must remember the baseball season is a 6 month marathon season and it's about your stats after the final game is played. Very important lessen is to show patience during the season. Don't make rush moves be it a trade or even your free agent budget if you league follows that.

I myself have already had some setbacks with my team. I have Jason Motte who is starting the year on the DL (I do have Mitchell Boggs as well) and last night for some strange reason the Rockies sent down my guy Tyler Colvin to AAA to start the season. Colvin will be back much sooner than later and will get a good amount of AB's over the course of a 162 game season. All Colvin owners must remember that he was good to be a part time player for the 1st half of the season. In the second half Cuddyer could be traded and Todd Helton will be winding down on the last year of his massive contract so expect Colvin to play everyday then.

My point is to stay the course and exlude patience. Almost every week of the season you will be dealing with injuries and setbacks and players going through slumps. Remember it was the turtle that won the race. So for of all you already screaming at your team must advice is to relax. Also this shows that having a deeper team comes in handy when you are dealt a setback or two. Okay so keep the positive vibes going and unless your team has a glaring weakness, let your team breath for the month of April before even thinking about making any trades.

Feel free to send me advice questions on twitter and you can follow me on twitter @ TheNLKing.

NL King - C.Lizza

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Breaking Down the NL King Draft

I thought it would be an interesting exercise to break down my draft in an article and try to hit home some points in terms of one's draft auction style. So let's do it.

I am in an NL only very competitive 5 X 5 Keeper League. We have 11 teams and most of the owners in my league have been in this league for quite some time, as our league is entering it's 22nd season. Our keeper league we are allowed to keep up to 10 keepers.

My Keeper List:
My keeper list going into the draft was as follows:
C - Michael McKenry - Pitt - 1
1B - Tyler Colvin - Col - 1
2B - Danny Espinosa - Wsh - 16
OF - Norichika Aoki - Mil - 5
OF - Logan Morrison - Mia - 4
OF - Roger Bernadina - Wsh - 1
P - Clayton Kershaw - LA - 39
P - Johnny Cueto - Cinn - 20
P - Ross Detwiller - Wsh - 2
P - Jason Motte - Stl - 29

I felt going in I was off to an incredible start with my pitching. I had the #1 starter in the NL in Kershaw, had Johnny Cueto at a very good price coming off an ace year, I had a real good young starter on a top team in Detwiller at a ridiculous cheap price and I had one of the top NL closers in Motte granted at an expensive price. Closers in our league tend to go higher than other leagues and last year the closers went out of control so I decided to keep Motte. In terms of my hitting I didn't have any superstars but I had 6 hitters at $28 and had some real nice hitters in Colvin, Espinosa and especially Aoki. I also had roster flexibility heading into the draft as Colvin, Morrison & Espinosa qualified at multipe  positions.

Draft Plan:
My plan was to spend heavy on hitting ( I had a total of $142 draft dollars). On my 4 pitcher keepers it cost me $90. My pitching plan was simple get 3 starters at cheap prices who while will not be studs can give me nice numbers in W's & K's and not hurt my ERA & Ratio. Then I was going to get two stud middle relievers hopefully at $1 each. I was targeting Mitchell Boggs because besides being a strong middle reliever if something happened to Motte I felt pretty certain Boggs was took over the closers role. Then I wanted as my second middle man David Hernandez who is a stud arm and puts up killer numbers in K's & Ratio.

In terms of my hitting I wanted to get 5 solid to big bats. I was targeting Joey Votto & Starlin Castro as my big bats, land Miguel Montero as my catcher, bring Ryan Ludwick back at a mid level price and get one more quality hitter. Wasn't going to be easy but could I pull all of this off?

Draft Night:
Our draft was last Friday night and it started out with the prices being somewhat reasonable but nobody had come up on my targeted lists be it hitter or pitcher. I participated in the bidding just to stay active but nothing happened until the end of the 1st round when Ian Desmond came up. Now I had Castro & Desmond ranked pretty close. I like Castro a bit better although given the teams they play for and their supporting cast you can easily make an argument that Desmond is the better player to get for 2013. However I have always been a Desmond fan and he came into his own last year despite missing 32 games had 25HR & 21SB & .292 Avg and good R & RBI. I won the bidding at $26 and the owner who had Desmond last year to my surprise decided not to use his topper rights (in our league each team gets 2 topper rights per draft) so I had Desmond at $26. Great start to land a power and speed guy at middle infield at market value I felt. But that mean Castro was out of the plan.

Then shortly after that Joey Votto came up, I felt that after his season last year where his knee injury killed his 2nd half that Votto would go a reasonable price, somewhere slightly below $35. That did not happen as Votto went $40 due to a 2 team bidding war so I passed. Chase Headley shortly came up after that and I know per my article the warning signs on Headley but that doesn't mean I did not like Headley. So when I could top Headley at 21 I did so. I had my 3B and another player who is a positive average with power and speed and at pretty good price. I think a number of players passed maybe as many as rounds worth and it just didn't happen for me until Matt Holliday came up. To me as long as Holiday plays 150 games he is money in the bank. I love those kind of players because there is so much uncertainity with most players. I felt that Holliday was similar to Votto but at 10% less numbers so when I won the bidding at $26 I was thrilled. That followed shortly there after of me landing my targeted catcher in Montero for $19. I also liked Lucroy ($17) & Rosario ($18) who I just missed out in the bidding. Few picks later Shin Chin Choo came up and I landed another positive average player with power and speed and I got Choo at $25.

Okay so I had added to my hitting Desmond, Headley, Holliday, Montero & Choo. While none of them were Ryan Braun or Andrew McCutchen they were all really strong players in their own rights. I wanted to add 5 quality to strong bats and I already did so at this stage of the draft. I had $25 left I needed to round out my hitting roster with my last 3 hitters (OF, Corner & Mid Infielder) and really focus on pitching now. But an interesting thing happened as I now knew my next couple of players had to be pitchers, however Rickie Weeks came up. I had Weeks last year and while his final numbers were good his average really hurt me. In addition I still view him as injury risk as he has had many injuries throughout his career. I did have topper rights and when the bidding stopped at $15 I had the opportunity to top Weeks at just $16. It was a really good deal, too good to pass up right? But I did pass it up as I only had $25 left and still needed 8 players 5 of which were pitchers so I passed. I had landed Weeks I would have been in $1 land for my last 7 players not a good place to be.

Then the pitchers are targeted who I felt might go cheap and give me nice value started to come up. First it was Carlos Villanueva, granted he is on the Cubs but felt he can give me decent numbers in the percentage categories with good K's and 10 or 11 wins and I nabbed him at $4. Right after that Matt Garza came up and while he is out the month of April and will be traded by the Cubs by July 31st when I was able to get Garza at $6 that was just to good of a deal to pass up. I had Garza in 2011 and while he didn't win a lot of games that year he was strong in ERA, Ratio & K's. Then shortly there after Rickey Nolasco came up and due to anti Marlin sentiment (can't blame anyone for that) I landed Nolasco for $3. So I got my 3 starters per my targeted list in Garza, Nolasco & Villanueva for just $13.

Now I was set for my end game as I had $12 for my last 5 spots which were 1 Outfielder, 1 Corner Infielder, 1 Middle Infielder & 2 Pitchers which were going to be middle relievers. Ryan Ludwick came up and I was able to top him but the skin of my teeth at $8 and add a 6th quality bat. That left 4 players for $4, which meant I could only get a player I brought up. I now was solely focused on the relievers. I brought up Mitchell Boggs when it was my turn and no one bid as they were waiting on other players and not focusing on middle relievers at that time. Given that Jason Motte is going to start the season on the DL that was a stroke of good luck and I got my #1 middle reliever per my draft plan. The same thing happened 11 picks later when it was my turn again and landed David Hernandez at $1 as my 2nd middle reliever and completely my pitching roster. I finished my last 2 hitters with Eric Chavez & Jerry Hairston Jr at $1 each.

In the reserves / taxi squad I landed Nolan Arenado (I can only keep him if he makes the opening day roster our league rules prohibits from drafting minor league players with rookie status), Aaron Harang, Jeremy Affeldt, Casey Kotchman and Jeff Karstens. I landed some starting pitching depth, another solid middle reliever on a good team, I have Morrison who will miss the first 2 to 4 weeks so Kotchman made sense and I took a chance on Arenado who I am still waiting to hear on as I write this.

So my final roster looks like this:
C - McKenry - Pitt - 1
C - Montero - Arz - 19
1B - Colvin - Col - 1
3B - Headley - SD - 21
Cnr - Chavez - Arz - 1
2B - Espinosa - Wsh - 16
SS - Desmond - Wsh - 26
Mid Inf - Hairston Jr - 1
OF - Bernadina - 1
OF - Aoki - 5
OF - Morrison - 4
OF - Choo - 25
OF - Holliday - 26
UP - Ludwick - 8
P - Kershaw - 39
P - Cueto - 20
P - Detwiller - 2
P - Motte - 29
P - Villanueva - 4
P - Garza - 6
P - Nolasco - 3
P - Boggs - 1
P - Hernandez - 1

Reserves / Taxi Squad:
3B - Arenado - 1
P - Harang - 1
P - Affeldt - 1
1B - Kotchman - 1
P - Karstens - 1

Final Analysis:
I was very happy how things went although does not assure one will have a top team. I didn't get my top 2 bats I was targeting but landed a number of strong bats and landed my pitching plan to a T at just $15. I was very intrigued by the Cubs reliever Fujikawa and wanted to figure out a way to get him during the draft but the way my draft and it wasn't meant to be so someone else got him at $9. But I feel I have a deep hitting lineup with power throughout and I feel half of hitting roster will be double digit steals as well as having a higher majority of hitters I expect to be positive average hitters. I have 2 stud starters, a strong young guy in Detwiller, 3 nice cheap starters, a strong closer in Motte (let's hope his injury is nothing serious) and 2 stud middle relievers.

After just missing out of the money last season and finishing for a tie for 5th place and literally being a few stats away from not only being in the money but finishing as high as 2nd place I am ready for a strong 2013. I feel I have a team that can challenge for the title but like every team I need to stay away as much as possible from the injury bug, stay away from guys have down years and catch a break or two. Looking at my team the open points I see is Headley & Morrison will be on the DL for most of April and Garza won't be ready until 1st week of May. Also while I know Garza will get traded by July 31st I hope he stays in the NL because in my league if you have a player traded to the AL you get no compensation other than that players salary gets added to your free agent budget. A big key for me is that come August 1st Chase Headley is a Padre or if he is traded that he is still in the NL. I tried to ride the wave of my draft where I felt the values and my draft plan meet each other. I believe that worked and tried to be flexible and aggressive throughout the draft. I hope by me breaking down the draft you got something out of it or at least got entertained.

Follow me on twitter @ TheNLKing

Please feel free to send me NL fantasy baseball advice questions via twitter.

NL King - C.Lizza

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

NL King - 5 Key Questions NL West

Okay we finish this three part series today with the NL West. Let's break it down.

Arizona Diamondbacks:
- Will Ian Kennedy bounce back and have an ace lite year like he did in 2011?
- Does Goldschmidt emerge as a true 5 category stud this year?
- Does Aaron Hill repeat his 2012 production?
- How long will Ross and Eaton be out for?
- Can Wade Miley do it again?

Colorado Rockies:
- Can any Rockies starting pitcher provide positive value?
- Does Cargo play 150+ games and put up huge fantasy year?
- Will Fowler still be a tease or put together a big season?
- Does Cuddyer get traded during the season?
- How long does Helton stay a starter if he struggles?

Los Angeles Dodgers:
- Will Carl Crawford stay healthy and what can we expect?
- How does Greinke do in year 1 of the mega contract?
- Will Ryu make a strong impact right away?
- If Jansen stays healthy how long before he takes the closer job away from League?
- What do the Dodgers do with Lilly, Harang & Capuano if everyone else is healthy?

San Diego Padres:
- Is Chase Headley a Padre on August 1st?
- Is Gyorko in contention for Rookie of the year?
- Is any Padre starting pitcher worth owning?
- How will the fences that are moved in play this year?
- Can Quentin play 120 games?

San Francisco Giants:
- Does Lincecum put up a huge year in his walk year or is he done?
- Does Belt show he is a core Giant for years to come this year?
- Can Sandoval play 140 games?
- Does Pence put up a monster year in his walk year?
- Does Pagan stay hungry after his big contract?

Follow me on twitter @ TheNLKing

NL King - C.Lizza

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

NL King - 5 Key Questions NL Cental

Today we take a look at the 5 key Questions per team for the NL Central. Let's kick it off.

Chicago Cubs:
- Who is on Third and can they do anything?
- How long will Marmol, Garza & Soriano be Cubs this season?
- Will Samardzja take the next step and become a front line starter?
- Will Rizzo become an elite 1B?
- Will Castro have a break through season?

Cincinnati Reds:
- Will Johnny Cueto follow up his big 2012?
- Will Joey Votto put his knee injury from last year behind him and challenge for the MVP?
- In this loaded lineup will all these guys feed off each other?
- Will Choo be 20/20?
- Will Mesoraco show his promise?

Milwaukee Brewers:
- Will Lohse be in the rotation in mid April and will he be the force he was last year?
- Will Hart be back late April or mid May?
- Will it be the Axford of 2011 or 2012?
- Will Carlos Gomez & Norichika Aoki duplicate last season?
- What will the Brewers get out of Estrada, Fiers & Narveson?

Pittsburgh Pirates:
- Can McCutchen put up that 2012 monster year again?
- Can Starling Marte be a strong contributor?
- Can Pedro Alvarez cut down some K's and hit 40HR's?
- What will the Pirates get out of their starting pitching?
- Will Grilli have a hard time closing?

St. Louis Cardinals:
- How long will Motte & Freese be out for?
- Can Craig play 150 games and put up a monster season?
- When will Oscar Taveras be up this season?
- Will Wainwright go back to his ace form?
- Can Molina duplicate his career year or anywhere close to it?

Tomorrow we do the NL West.

Follow me on twitter @ TheNLKing

NL King - C.Lizza

Monday, March 25, 2013

NL King - 5 Key NL East Questions

Today we break down the key NL East 5 key questions by team. Let's get to it.

Atlanta Braves:
- How long will Brian McCann be out for and will he go back to his old form?
- Will Kris Medlan break through as an ace this year or was last August & September just a hot streak?
- Can Julio Teheran be a solid starter this year?
- Will the Upton brothers each put together a huge season?
- Is this the year Jason Heyward becomes an elite fantasy player?

Miami Marlins:
- Who else will the Marlins trade this season besides free agent to be Rickey Nolasco?
- Can Giancarlo Stanton put up big numbers with hardly a supporting cast?
- Is Justin Ruggiano the real deal or a flash in the pan?
- Will Christian Yelich be up with the Marlins by the summer?
- Can any of the players the Marlins got from Toronto make a fantasy impact this year?

New York Mets:
- Can any of the Mets outfielders have any fantasy value?
- When will D'Arnaud and Wheeler be up?
- Can Johan Santana make any sort of fantasy impact or is he done?
- Can Bobby Parnell be an effective closer?
- Can either Niese or Harvey take a big step this year?

Philadelphia Phillies:
- Can that older core bats put together a strong season?
- Will Doc Halladay rebound or is he past his prime?
- Will Ben Revere steal 50 bases?
- Can either Domonic Brown or John Mayberry Jr break though this year?
- If the Phillies have a bad 1st half will they look to rebuild?

Washington Naturals:
- Will Strasburg win the cy young?
- Will Harper be in contention for the MVP?
- Will Ryan Zimmerman stay healthy for a full season?
- Will Adam LaRoche repeat his best season ever from 2012?
- Will Dernard Span put up a big year as Nats leadoff man on this loaded team?

Tomorrow will do the NL Central.

Follow me on twitter @ TheNLKing

NL King - C.Lizza

Thursday, March 21, 2013

NL Only Fantasy Baseball Advice - Cubs Warning

This article is not going to be about how bad the Cubs will be in 2013 but will be how it's only a matter of time before Theo Epstein sends Matt Garza, Alfonso Soriano and Carlos Marmol packing during the 2013 season.

Matt Garza:
If Garza was on a good team in the NL and was 100% healthy and able to pitch 200 innings then that owner could expect a season of 15 wins, an ERA at 3.50 or lower, a ratio of 1.250 and nearly 200K's. That's a strong season. However being on the Cubs despite his strong debut season with the Cubs in 2011 (3.32 ERA in 31 starts) Garza only won 10 games. Last season was injury riddled one for Garza as he only pitched 103 innings. Plus this spring he has been slowed by a lat muscle injury which will probably mean he will start the year on the DL and not make his 1st start of the year until mid April maybe even the 3rd week of April. Garza will be a free agent after the season and will only turn 30 in November. There will be high demand for Garza and while Theo Epstein is shaping the Cubs for years to come it appears Garza is not part of that plan. Come sometime in July Theo will trade Garza for the best package of prospects he can get. This makes Garza a very risky pick for 2013.

Alfonso Soriano:
Very quietly Soriano had a huge power season last year with 32HR's & 108RBI. However Soriano is 37 and has two years to go on his monster 8 year 136 million dollar contract. Soriano has DH written all over him and if he can be continue to be productive for the 1st half of this season and if Theo is willing to eat a good portion of that contract, Soriano will be moved as Theo wants that playing time to go to some of the young players in his organization. Soriano does have some sort of no trade clause so that can complicate things a bit but as long as Soriano is healthy and a good power bat he will be moved and it only makes sense that's it to a AL team as their DH.

Carlos Marmol:
After his huge 2010 season Marmol has struggled with consistency as the Cubs closer driving them mad. Marmol is on the final year of his contract as he makes 9.6 million this season. The Tigers for one desperately want a closer now although I don't know if they want Marmol. The first chance Theo gets to move Marmol he will do so. Remember Theo signed Japanese reliever Kyuji Fujikawa to a 2 year deal for 10 million dollars total in the off-season. So Theo is ready to move on from Marmol ASAP.

Follow me on twitter @ TheNLKing

NL King - C.Lizza

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

NL King - Player Profile - Chase Headley

Today we take a look at one of the top NL performers last season in Chase Headley. Headley was a 2nd round pick in the 05 draft by the Padres and until last year shown glimpses of taking his game to becoming a $20 NL only player but no one expected his 2012 season. Headley is 2 years away from free agency as the Padres have him under control for this season and next year 2014. Headley is making 8.58 million this year and if he puts up another big season he will cash in at least on a 1 year deal through arbitration next winter. Lets take a look at Headley's stats since he become a starter player in 2008.

08 - 9HR, 38RBI, 34R, 4SB, .269 Avg in 331 AB's
09 - 12HR, 64RBI, 62R, 10SB, .262 Avg in 543 AB's
10 - 11HR, 58RBI, 77R, 17SB, .264 Avg in 610 AB's
11 - 4HR, 44RBI, 43R, 13SB, .289 Avg in 381 AB's
12 - 31HR, 115RBI, 95R, 17SB, .286 Avg in 604 AB's

Now for the last two or three years people have been predicting Headley come become a $20 NL only roto player as he could turn his 30 doubles a year into more HR's. Experts thought Headley could be a guy to give you high teens in HR's & SB's a batting average above .285 and runs and RBI's close to 80. That's good production but last year was a ridiculous season. Headley is in his prime years, has more major league experience under his belt and was injury free all year. What makes Headley's year even more impressive from last year is he did it playing half his games in Petco and wasn't like he is surrounded by a loaded line up either.

2013 Outlook:
How do I explain the unexplainable? I don't. Remember a few years ago the year Eric Byrnes had for the Diamondbacks? Well after that season he was a complementary player and out of baseball 3 years after his magical 07 season. I am not saying Headley will be out of baseball in 3 years but repeating last season will be very hard to do. Do I think Headley who now has a new found confidence in himself as a player as well as a very good chance to be a $25 NL only fantasy player in 2013? Yes I do but asking for him to be the player he was last year, while he is obviously capable as we saw last season is not something anyone can count on.

Last Point Trade Warning:
The Pads and Headley started talking this winter about a long term deal and those talks went nowhere. If Headley is having another big season the Pads will realize this summer he will get a huge number in arbitration this winter (maybe around 15 million almost double his salary this year) and will be just 1 year away from free agency. Also at that point it would appear the Padres would have no chance to resign him based on their budgets. During the summer would be when the Padres could get the most for Headley as he could help a contending team the rest of the way this year and next season as well before turning free agent. Obviously a player who is a strong trade bait candidate especially in an NL only league makes that owner take on more risk. This is someone all NL only owners must be aware of regarding Headley and players like him.

Injury Update:
Chase Headley thumb injury the other day probably means he will be out most of April. This will bring his draft day price down but bid accordingly as thumb injuries can be tricky. Need to get a very good discount on Headley with this latest news come draft day.

Follow me on twitter @ TheNLKing

NL King - C.Lizza

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

NL King - Player Profile - Giancarlo Stanton

Today we take a look at Marlins stud outfielder Giancarlo Stanton.  Stanton turned 23 during the off-season and was the Marlins 2nd round pick in the 2007 draft. Stanton came up after about 60 games into the 2010 season. Let's take a look at his stats.

10 - 22HR, 59RBI, 45R, 5SB, .259 Avg in 359 AB's
11 - 34HR, 87RBI, 79R, 5SB, .262 Avg in 516 AB's
12 - 37HR, 86RBI, 75R, 6SB, .290 Avg in 501 AB's

2013 Outlook:
Stanton should be a huge power bat with at least a solid average for the next decade. However how long will he be a Marlin? After the fire sale this past off-season and the current ownership and management group what is their long term game plan? Also Stanton was very upset with ownership after what they did this past off-season, not that he will not give it his all going forward but in terms of leaving the Marlins first chance he gets I am sure he will do that. Now the Marlins do have Stanton through the 2016 season but since Stanton is arbitration eligible after this season one would have to believe it's only a matter of time before he is traded for a package of prospects. Does that happen during this season? Anything is possible with the Marlins and quite frankly if some team offers a big prospect package for Stanton why wouldn't the Marlins entertain that idea it's not like they will be contending anytime soon. So when you consider the off the field stuff regarding Stanton and his supporting cast which I am sure will effect his numbers my advice is to spend your draft dollars elsewhere on a top player who is on a real MLB team. Plus why would any NL pitcher pitch to Stanton? I mean look at their lineup are you going to let Stanton beat you or one of their other players? Stanton is a huge talent but he is shipwrecked on the Marlins.

Follow me on Twitter @ TheNLKing

NL King - C.Lizza

Monday, March 18, 2013

NL King - Player Profile - Shin-Soo Choo

Todays player profile is on the new addition to the NL Reds outfielder Shin-Soo Choo. Choo has put up some very good years in the AL including 2 seasons where Choo had 20/20 seasons (20+ HR's and  SB's). However that was during the 09 & 10 seasons so it's been a couple of years since that has happened.

Choo will turn 31 this summer and is a free agent after the season. So Choo and his super agent Scott Boras is looking for a big season that can lead to a big payday. Choo has been a starting outfielder since 2008 so let's break down his stats in Cleveland from 08 through last season.

08 - 14HR, 66RBI, 68R, 4SB, .309Avg in 317 AB's
09 - 20HR, 86RBI, 87R, 21SB, .300 Avg in 583 AB's
10 - 22HR, 90RBI, 81R, 22SB, .300 Avg in 550 AB's
11 - 8HR, 36RBI, 37R, 12SB, .259 Avg in 313 AB's
12 - 16HR, 67RBI, 88R, 21SB, .283 Avg in 598 AB's

2013 Outlook:
Choo is joining a new league so the beginning of the season there could be an adjustment period for Choo. Also it sounds like Choo will play center instead of right in the outfield so how does that impact his hitting? On the plus side Choo is playing in one of the best hitters parks in MLB and he is surrounded by a very strong and deep lineup. That should really help Choo's numbers. Having said that while Choo possesses good power and good speed it's not exceptional. I think Choo has a good chance to go back to a 20/20 season in Cincinnati with a batting average over .290. However I think it's a good chance and by no certainity a lock. A very good player but not an exceptional one keep that in mind on draft day.

Follow me on twitter @ TheNLKing

NL King - C.Lizza

Sunday, March 17, 2013

NL King - Player Profile - BJ Upton

Today's player profile is on one of the big new additions to the NL and that is BJ Upton.  Upton signed a 5 year 75 million dollar deal with the Braves in the off-season. Recently the Braves acquired his brother Justin so the Upton boys hope to be playing together in Atlanta for years to come. One would think that would have a positive effect on both of them. But let's break down BJ Upton.

Background - BJ Upton is now 28 and in the prime of his career, he spent 6 plus season with the Tampa Rays. He was highly touted as BJ Upton was the 2nd overall pick of the 2002 draft.

First Full Season:
BJ Upton's first full season it looked like he was destined for stardom both in real life and in fantasy baseball. Upton's stats in 2007 were 24HR, 82R, 86RBI, 22SB, .300Avg. Looked like the sky was the limit and BJ Upton would be a 5 category player for years to come.

Last 5 Seasons:
However that did not happen as we look as BJ Upton's stats from 2008 through last season:
08 - 9HR, 67RBI, 85R, 44SB, .273 Avg
09 - 11HR, 55RBI, 79R, 42SB, .241 Avg
10 - 18HR, 62RBI, 89R, 42SB, .237 Avg
11 - 23HR, 81RBI, 82R, 36SB, .243 Avg
12 - 28HR, 78RBI, 79R, 31SB, .246 Avg

Now the last 4 years BJ Upton has hit between .237 and .246. That is a major drag on one's team average. The fact that Upton has struck out between 152 and 169 times last 4 years has a lot to do with Upton's poor average. Also as Upton has gone from his early 20's to his late 20's his stolen bases have come down as well. On the plus side the last 2 seasons Upton has been a 20HR/20SB man each season. Like I stated in the By the Numbers Article there were only 7 such players in the NL last season.

2013 Outlook:
On the plus side BJ Upton will have so much of a better offensive team around him in Atlanta compared to what the Tampa Rays have had the last 2 years. However given the Braves offense they will not need BJ Upton to steal as much as he has had to in Tampa the last 2 years and he is getting older so I would expect his stolen bases to be in the low to mid 20's at best. Also BJ Upton just signed a very big contract and he would not be the first player to get off to a rough start to try and justify that new 75 Million Dollar contract. Also BJ Upton is going from the AL to the NL so it's a new league with for the most part seeing new pitchers on a day in and day out basis. As you can see I have listed a number of red flags for BJ Upton for 2013 but I don't want it to seem like he will be a dud in 2013. I expect Upton to be a 20/20 man again in 2013 but with a poor average and most likely with start the season very slowly. My guess in most NL leagues BJ Upton will go a premium due to his power and speed combo and not enough people pay attention to average. If that's the case pass on BJ Upton and go after someone else.

Follow me on twitter @ TheNLKing

NL King - C.Lizza

Friday, March 15, 2013

NL King - Player Profile - Mike Minor

Today I put the spotlight on Mike Minor, starting pitcher for the Atlanta Braves. Minor is capable of taking a huge step forward but also as a young player who is also very capable of taking a step back. So let's break it down and try to look at the facts and what to expect from Minor in 2013.

Just turned 25 at the very end of December, was the 7th overall pick by the Braves in the 2009 Draft. Spent all of 2010 in the minors as well as the 1st half of 2011.

2011 - 5-3, 4.14 ERA, 1.49 Ratio (WHIP), 77K, 93 Hits, 30BB, 7HR in 82 2/3 IP - 15 Starts
2012 - 11-10, 4.12 ERA, 1.15 Ratio, 145K, 151 Hits, 56BB, 26HR in 179 1/3 IP - 30 Starts

When we break down 2012 we see that Mike Minor had a very rough 1st half but pitched like an ace in the 2nd half. Let's look at those stats.

2012 Stats:
1st Half - 5-6, 5.97 ERA, 1.42 Ratio
2nd Half - 6-4, 2.16 ERA, 0.87 Ratio

As a young pitcher it takes time to progress to become a quality starter and eventually a top starter. If we look at past Brave greats who are heading to Cooperstown in Tom Glavine, Greg Maddux and John Smoltz all of them struggled at the beginning of their careers. That is a lessen in terms of analyzing all young talented starters be in NL or AL. So Mike Minor struggles for the 2nd half of 2011 and the 1st half of 2012 really should have been expected. So was Minor's dominance in the 2nd half of last season something we can count in for the full season in 2013? Well while he is still walking too many people Minor's walk per 9 innings did come down from 3.3 in 2011 to 2.8 in 2012. So if Minor can continue to progress with his walks that will help immensely. Big key was how many hits Minor allowed last season. Minor had almost 35 more innings pitched than hits allowed. The league just hit .232 against Minor.

So what are the negatives for Minor? Well the 26 HR's he allowed last season is way way too much. I mentioned he still needs to bring his walk rate per 9 innings down, and while his K per 9 innings came down last season I think that helped Minor as he is getting guys out on fewer pitches. Also Minor needs to pitch much better on the road. Last season Minor was 7-4 at home with a 3.25 ERA, while on the road Minor was 4-6 with a 5.14 ERA.

2013 What to Expect:
Minor has been making strides and he has gained a wealth of experience as he now has 45 career starts. He is entering his prime years and if he can improve on his walks, his HR's allowed being more consistent on the road with the improved Braves in terms of their offense Minor will have a very solid to strong campaign in 2013. I am predicting that Minor will emerge as a front tier starting pitcher this year in NL only leagues. Not an ace yet but a real good starter. In auction leagues in NL only I would say Minor will be worth in the low 20's. This time next year we will be talking about if Minor can become a 1st tier starting pitching.

Follow me on twitter @ TheNLKing

NL King - C.Lizza

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

NL King - Player Spotlight - Ian Kennedy

Today we are going to take a look on one player and that's Ian Kennedy. Kennedy is one of the more interesting names in the NL this season. Let's break it down.

Ian Kennedy was a 1st round pick, 21st overall by the Yankees in 2006. Kennedy was then part of the 3 team trade that netted the Yankees Curtis Granderson and sent Ian Kennedy to the Diamondbacks in the off-season of 2009 heading into 2010. Kennedy has been a part of Arizona's starting staff for the last 3 years, here are his stats.

2010  -  9-10, 3.80 ERA, 1.20 Ratio (WHIP), 168K, 163 Hits, 70BB, 26HR in 194 IP 
2011 -   21-4, 2.88 ERA, 1.09 Ratio, 198K, 55BB, 186 Hits, 19HR in 222 IP
2012 -   15-12, 4.02 ERA, 1.30 Ratio, 187K, 55BB, 216 Hits, 28HR in 208 IP.

Breaking down the Stats:
First off Kennedy has been healthy as he has been a pitcher you can count on for 200 innings and a little bit more. Kennedy K's have been consistent the last 2 years as well. So why did Kennedy's numbers get so much worse last year compared to his breakout year in 2011? Well his walks per 9 innings was basically the same that is a good sign going forward however the league hit for a much higher batting average against Kennedy last year compared to his 2 prior years in the desert. Last year the league hit .266 against Kennedy while in 2011 his opponents batting average was .227 in 2011 and .228 in 2012. Not to mention Kennedy gave up 9 more Home Runs last season.

What does it all mean?
When looking at Kennedy's reduction in wins last year it's easy to explain, Kennedy didn't pitch nowhere near as well and the D-Backs went from being an 94 win team to a 81 win team. So the fact that Kennedy still won 15 games is a positive sign. Also Kennedy's walk rate and K rate have been near identical from last season his disappointing year to his break out season in 2011. Another positive sign. Comes down to the league took a very big jump in hitting against Kennedy as his opponents hit 40 points higher last year compared to Kennedy's first two season in Arizona. Now Arizona the ball does travel well so if one is not pitching as effective I can see the increase in Home Runs.

What can we expect for 2013?
I believe worst case scenario Kennedy will at least duplicate last season and be a middle tier starter. However for Kennedy to get back to his level of 2011 he is now going to need to make some minor adjustments as the league and his opponents have done that to him. Unless you have ridiculous stuff this is what major leaguer's have to do and that's make adjustments. One concern I have is a big reason the Yankees were willing to trade Kennedy was they felt he was immature and his attitude needed adjusting. So is Kennedy going to be mature enough to work on his game to get back to his dominant 2011? While I expect improvement from last season I do not expect 2013 to be like Kennedy's breakout season in 2011 where he finished in 4th place in the Cy Young voting. Expect strong wins and K's with good but not great percentage numbers, similar to Yovanni Gallardo.

Follow me on twitter @ TheNLKing

NL King - C.Lizza


Monday, March 11, 2013

NL King - By The Numbers

Today we are going to break down the 10 categories in the NL and see how many players reach certain thresholds when it comes to certain stat numbers. I think you find this very interesting.


Average - There were only 13 hitters in the NL last year to hit .300 or better and only 4 hitters hit .310 or better. 6 Hitters hit between .290 and .299. So only 19 hitters hit .290 or better.

Runs - Only 4 players scored 100 runs or more. 12 Players scored between 90 and 99 runs & 8 Players scored between 85 and 89 runs. So 24 players scored 85 or more runs.

HR - Only 1 player hit more than 35 HR's (Braun at 41). There were 10 players to hit between 30 and 34 HR's & 7 players to hit between 25 and 29 HR's. So 18 players hit 25 or more HR's.

RBI - 9 Players drove in 100 or more runs and 10 players drove in between 90 and 99 runs. 6 players drove in between 85 and 89 runs. So 25 players drove in 85 or more runs.

SB - There were only 2 players to steal more than 40 bases (top 2 were at 42 & 40). There were 6 players to steal between 30 and 39 bases, 3 players between 25 and 29, 6 players between 20 and 24 and 8 players between 15 and 19. So only 17 players with 20 or more steals and 25 players with 15 or more steals. Interesting to note that the top 4 in steals in the NL last season as now all playing in the AL. They were Bourn (42), Reyes (40), Victorino (39) and Altuve (33). Also Drew Stubbs who was tied for 5th place in steals with 30 is also now in the AL. We did gain Revere (40), BJ Upton (31) & Choo (21).

Quick Facts:
- There were 7 players in the NL last season to go 20 HR & 20 SB (Braun, McCutchen, Heyward, Rollins, C.Gonzalez, Desmond & Hanley Ramirez). Also we gained BJ Upton to the NL and he also went 20/20 last season.

- There were only 2 players who went at least 25 HR, 90 R & RBI, 15 SB, .290 Avg and they were Braun & McCutchen

Wins  - There were only 2 starters in the NL last season to win at least 20 games and they were Gio Gonzalez and RA Dickey. Dickey is now in the AL. There were 14 other starters to win between 15 and 19 games.

ERA - There were 7 starters with an ERA below 3.00 and 7 starters with an ERA between 3.00 and 3.40.

Ratio - There were 4 starters with a Ratio (WHIP) below 1.10 and 11 starters with a ratio between 1.10 and 1.20.

K's - There were 6 starters with 200 strikeouts or more and 11 starters with strikeouts between 170 and 200.

Saves - There were 2 closers with over 40 saves (Kimbrel & Motte at 42 each), 4 closers between 35 and 39 (Chapman 38 now a starter, Papelbon 38, Hanrahan 36 now in AL and Axford at 35). There were 3 closers with saves between 30 and 34 (Putz 32, Clippard 32 now a setup man, and Betancourt 31). The NL is gaining a 40 save guy in Rafael Soriano (had 42 saves last season).

Quick Facts:
- There were 5 starters in the NL last season who compiled 15 or more wins, an ERA of 3.30 or less, a Ratio of 1.20 or less and at least 170K's. They were Gio Gonzalez, RA Dickey (now AL), Johnny Cueto, Cole Hamels and Matt Cain.

The point of breaking down these stats is to analyze the value of a player if they get you certain stats be it in power or speed or average or on the pitching side. So when a trade presents itself in the off-season for a proven player with these kind of stats you should really look at the trade instead of just saying "I can get a guy like that in the draft". Or if during the draft a player goes a couple of dollars more than you thought that falls into these numbers instead of saying "that's over what I value" you just might want to be more flexible.

Next up is a player profile article on Ian Kennedy. That comes on Wednesday.

Follow me on  twitter at TheNLKing

NL King - C.Lizza

Saturday, March 09, 2013

NL Only Fantasy Baseball Prospects for 2013

Today we take a look at the top prospects in the NL who can impact NL only fantasy leagues in 2013. I am going to break up this group into 2 categories, those who make the opening day roster and the in-season call-ups. Both lists players are in alphabetical order.

Opening Day Candidates:
Nolan Arenado - COL - 3B - 2012 Stats: 12HR- 56RBI-55R-0SB-.285 Avg in AA
Did not have the breakout season last year the Rockies had hoped but this could help Arenado in the long term as sometimes dealing with failure helps the player in the long term. In the mix to win the opening day job at 3B and is off to a good start this spring. Even if he starts the year in the minors still projected to be Rocks 3B of the future and should be up by early summer. 

Jedd Gyorko - SD - 2B / 3B - 2012 Stats: 30HR-100RBI-90R-5SB-.311 Avg in AA - AAA
In line to be the Padres opening day starter at 2B. Natural position is 3B but with Chase Headley in tow, Gyorko heads to 2B. Should be a good bat at middle infield but don't expect his minor league numbers last year in his rookie year at the show.

Adam Eaton - ARI - OF - 2012 Stats: 7HR-48RBI-130R-44SB-.375 Avg in AA - AAA
Had a huge year last season in the minors and should get 400AB's in Arizona's 4 man OF. I wouldn't expect a lot of power but at least solid numbers in R, SB and Avg.

Shelby Miller - STL - SP - 2012 Stats: 11-10, 4.74 ERA, 1.38 Ratio, 160K in AAA
Struggled mightly in 1st half last year but the straightened things out and was dominant the rest of the way including a Sept call-up with the big club. Fighting for the 5th spot in the Cards rotation. If he doesn't win it could see a call-up to the show by May - June. Potential #1 starter.

Wily Peralta - MIL - SP - 2012 Stats: 7-11, 4.66 ERA, 1.58 Ratio, 143K in AAA
Was terrible in AAA last year but was strong in his September call-up as Peralta went 2-1 with a 2.48 ERA in 5 starts. Fighting for a spot in the Brewer rotation and could be a good depth starter.

Trevor Rosenthal - STL - SP - 2012 Stats: 8-6, 2.97 ERA, 1.10 Ratio, 104K in AA - AAA
In that same battle as Shelby Miller for Cards 5th spot in the rotation. Projects to be a middle of the rotation starter or an excellent reliever, depends on the development of his secondary pitches.

Darin Ruf - PHI - OF - 2012 Stats: 38HR-104RBI-93R-2SB- .317 Avg in AA
In the mix for a major league roster spot as Ruf can play OF and 1B. He is 26 years old so needs to get an opportunity soon.

Hyun-Jin Ryu - LAD - SP - 2012 Stats: 9-9, 2.66 ERA, 1.09 Ratio, 210K in Japan
Ryu's contract includes a clause that forbids him from being sent to the minors without his consent. Most likely means he will start the season as Dodgers #3 starter. Hard to predict foreign players as there have been a lot of booms and busts. Ryu is projected to be a middle tier starter.

Tyler Skaggs - ARI - SP - 2012 Stats: 9-6, 2.87 ERA, 1.22 Ratio, 116K in AA - AAA
Part of the trade with the Angels for Dan Haren, is fighting for the 5th spot in Arizona's rotation but off to a rocky spring start. Even if sent down could see early call-up. Projects as front of the rotation starter.

Julio Teheran - ATL - SP - 2012 Stats: 7-9, 5.08 ERA, 1.44 Ratio, 97K in AAA
It was a rough year for Teheran last year but remember he is just 21. If he makes stides on his breaking pitch could be a #1 starter, if not then a strong middle of the rotation starter. Has an excellent chance to be the Braves #5 starter and you maybe able to get him at a bargain price come draft day as the hype machine is very quiet on Teheran do to his bad year last year at AAA.

During the Season Call-Ups:
Gerrit Cole - PIT - SP - 2012 Stats: 9-7,  2.80 ERA, 1.20 Ratio, 136K in High A - AAA
Has drawn comparisons to Justin Verlander. Potential #1 starter and could be called up by all-star break.

Tony Cingrani - CIN - SP - 2012 Stats: 5-3, 2.12 ERA, 1.10 Ratio, 101K in AA
Will start the year in AAA and needs to work on his secondary pitches. Could be in the Reds rotation come August once the Reds get worried about Chapman's innings. Excellent chance to be one of the Reds opening day starters next year as Bronson Arroyo is a free agent after the season.

Travis D'Arnaud - NYM - C - 2012 Stats: 16HR-52RBI-45R-1SB-.333 AVG in AAA
Only played in 67 games last year due to a knee injury but as long as he stays healthy D'Arnaud will be a future impact bat at the catcher position. D'Aranud is so thought of in MLB he has been involved with trades that sent Halladay & RA Dickey the other way. By June he will be up with the Mets.

JR Graham - ATL - SP - 2012 Stats: 12-2, 2.80 ERA, 1.06 Ratio, 110K in A - AA
Has a ceiling of a middle tier starter and a late summer call-up could happen.

Didi Gregorius - ARI - SS - 2012 Stats: 7HR-54RBI-70R-3SB-.265 Avg in AA - AAA
Will start the year in AAA, great glove and Arizona future shortstop but a lot of questions if he can hit enough. Scouts are 50/50 on Gregorius bat. Expect a 2nd half call-up.

Billie Hamilton - CIN - OF - 2012 Stats: 2HR-45RBI-112R-155SB-.311 Avg in A-AA
No those SB's is not a typo. This guy can change the SB category in NL only and mixed leagues for years to come. Has broken 100 steals the last 2 years in the minors. I also love his OBP which was over 400 last year. He is learning a new position CF and the Reds outfield is set for now but it's possible to see Hamilton with the Reds come late summer, sooner if there is an injury. With Choo being a free agent Hamilton is slated to take over CF come next opening day.

Casey Kelly - SD - SP - 2012 Stats: 0-2, 3.35 ERA, 0.96 Ratio, 39K in 8 Starts between Rookie Ball - AAA
Also made 6 starts in late season call up and compiled a 6.21 ERA. Chance to be a front of the rotation starter but if not is a very safe bet to be a solid middle of the rotation starter. Pads want to give Kelly more time but you could see Kelly in Petco by early summer.

Oscar Taveras - STL - OF - 2012 Stats: 23HR-94RBI-83R-10SB-.321 in AA
One of the top top prospects in all of baseball. Next stud Outfielder to join the NL. Most likely a call up in July but could be sooner if injury to 30 something OF's Holiday & Beltran.

Zack Wheeler - NYM - SP - 2012 Stats: 12-8, 3.26 ERA, 1.17 Ratio, 148K in AA - AAA
Projected to be front of the rotation starter , with trade bait and health risks in Johan Santana and Shawn Marcum.  Wheeler is just about ready and should be in the Mets rotation by June - July.

Kolten Wong - STL - 2B - 2012 Stats: 9HR-52RBI-79R-21SB-.287 in AA
Will open the season at AAA but could take over the big league job at 2B come June as the Cards are lacking at 2B on the MLB roster.

Please follow me on twitter @ TheNLKing.

NL King - C.Lizza

Thursday, March 07, 2013

Assembling a Pitching Staff for Your Fantasy Baseball Team in NL Only Leagues

Fantasy baseball advice to draft a great NL Only pitching staff? My model is 5 Starting Pitchers, 3 Strong Middle Relievers and a proven closer (a challenge in the NL for sure).

Starting Pitchers:
Five Starting Pitchers will be our staff and there are two ways we can go about doing this. You can go the route of two dominant starters and three average or what I refer to as push starters (again push starters get you league medium in ERA and WHIP but add to your Wins and K's) or one dominant starter, one very good starter, one middle tier starter and two push starters.

The two dominant starter route is a good choice as long as the dominant starters perform to the back of their baseball card and do not fall off due to injury or poor performance or both. Last year no one was more than a given than Doc Halladay and he missed a quarter of the season with a 4.48 ERA. But as long as your dominant starters live up to their pedigree, of your three push starters one could over perform a little bit, and the other 2 can be serviceable...... you will have strong numbers from that starting 5.

The advantage of going with the second format of 1 dominant starter, 1 very good starter, one middle tier starter and two push starters is you have more depth. I believe either format is a winning one.

In a perfect world we would love to have two closers but in an NL only league unless you found a cheap closer last year that's very hard to do unless you going to spend a lot of money. Also with the Astros now in the AL it's a little bit harder to have two closers in an NL only league. We want our closer to be reliable in terms of performance and health especially if we only have one. Also, in an NL only league we have to make sure our closer is not going to be trade bait during the season. Ideally we want someone who is a K per inning pitcher with strong numbers in the percentage categories.

The Middle Men:
Per my last article on middle relievers, you see why I am a believer in some strong middle men as we can get a good amount of wins, a few saves, a bunch of K's and strong numbers in ERA and Ratio.

The Big Picture:
Our staff will get strong percentage numbers from our dominant to middle tier starters, our closer and our middle men. If we have 2 or 3 push starters they will not hurt our percentage categories and add W's and K's. So the top of our staff will drive the percentage categories and everyone will contribute to the Wins and K's.

Taxi Squad - Reserves:
Most leagues have a straight draft after the auction for a 5 man taxi squad also known as the reserves. We are going to use this part of the draft as an insurance policy for our pitching staff. We are going to use one slot on a push starter who lasted to the reserves as well as one middle reliever who lasted as well. When one of our push starters or middle relievers struggles or gets injured we could have a backup plan stashed on our reserves. If everyone pitches well then we have depth to make a trade to help our team in another area.

In my opinion, putting together a staff is tough but I believe this model to work well in NL only leagues.

Follow me on twitter @ TheNLKing

NL King - C.Lizza

Tuesday, March 05, 2013

Fantasy Baseball Middle Relievers for NL Only Leagues

What if I told you in a 5 X 5 NL Only fantasy baseball league you could get an ace starting pitcher between $6 - $8? You would laugh at me right? Putting together a quality pitching staff could be daunting, but middle relievers can go a long way in solidifying your rotation. Three top middle relievers can add up to 15 wins, a few saves, killer ERAand Ratio numbers and over 200K's. All of this for just a few dollars. The top middle men live on contending teams because those teams come from behind in the 7th and 8th innings and get their middle men wins. Let me break down my top NL middle relievers in alphabetical order.

Mike Adams - PHI - 5W, 1SV, 3.27 ERA, 1.39 Ratio, 45K in 52 1/3 IP.
Did not have his usually dominant season last year but now he's back in the NL where he dominated in the past.

Mitchell Boggs - STL - 4W, 0SV, 2.21 ERA, 1.05 Ratio, 58K in 73 1/3 IP.
Would like to see more K's but great percentage numbers.

Rex Brothers - COL - 8W, 0SV, 3.86 ERA, 1.47 Ratio, 83K in 67 2/3 IP.
He's a work in progress but has wicked stuff and odds are the Rockies will trade Betancourt come July and if Brothers is having a good season he could get the chance to be their closer for the second half of the season.

Santiago Casilla - SF - 7W, 25SV, 2.84 ERA, 1.21 Ratio, 55K in 63 1/3 IP.
The Giants are going to take it easy on Romo at times during the year which could mean a few saves for Casilla.

Tyler Clippard - WAS - 2W, 32SV, 3.72 ERA, 1.15 Ratio, 84K in 72 2/3 IP.
Won't get the saves this year but his percentage categories will be much better with those K's and more wins.

Kyuji Fijikawa - CHI - Coming over from Japan where he was a dominant reliever. In Japan in 6 full seasons had a 1.36 ERA, 0.85 Ratio and more than a K inning. If Marmol is his usual inconsistent self Fijikawa will become a closer not a great middle reliever.

Luke Gregerson - SD - 2W, 9SV, 2.39 ERA, 1.08 Ratio, 72K in 71 2/3 IP.
Street always seems to miss 3 to 6 weeks per season which can open the door to low double digit saves for Gregerson.

David Hernandez - ARI - 2W, 4SV, 2.50 ERA, 1.02 Ratio, 98K in 68 1/3 IP.
K and Ratio machine and Putz is 36 years old so if he is shut down for a period of time due to injury Hernandez will get the ball in the 9th.

Kenley Jansen - LAD - 5W, 25SV, 2.35 ERA, 0.85 Ratio, 99K in 65 IP.
If Jansen can prove his health is 100% I think it's only a matter of time he becomes the closer again.

Sean Marshall - CIN - 5W, 9SV, 2.51 ERA, 1.16 Ratio, 74K in 61 IP.
Marshall won't get as many saves this year and was dominant once he went back to the 8th inning last year.

Eric O'Flaherty - ATL - 3W, 0SV, 1.73 ERA, 1.15 Ratio, 46K in 57 1/3 IP
Has been a great ERA guy last couple of years as O'Flaherty had 0.98 ERA in a full season in 2011.

Drew Storen - WAS - 3W, 4SV, 2.37 ERA, 0.98 Ratio, 24K in 30 1/3 IP.
Lost closers job to Soriano but falls under classic top middle reliever.

Again these players only cost a few dollars at worst and add up the numbers if you had 3 of them on your staff.

NL King - C.Lizza

Friday, March 01, 2013

Analyzing the Percentage Categories for NL Only Leagues

The NL King loves to give fantasy baseball advice and my favorite topic to discuss is the percentage categories. In fantasy baseball and how often they get over looked during draft preparation. Most owners look towards power, speed, wins, saves or strikeouts, but the majority of the time they don't ask themselves - how does my batting average look? What about my ERA and Ratio? Why is this?

The percentage categories are just not as sexy as HR or SB or Wins. In a standard 5 X 5 league the percentage categories are three of the ten categories. So they're crucial for any fantasy owners success. What makes these categories so difficult to navigate is they're very volatile, one day your numbers can be up and the next day down. You can really see this especially on the pitching side what two or three disastrous outings can do to your ERA and Ratio (WHIP).

First rule of thumb for the percentage categories is you don't want to fall too far behind over the first couple of months of the season. Frankly these categories are too hard to come back from. In most instances, when I see a team who is far behind in the percentage categories on Memorial Day, they never recover. For instance, if your team hits .250 for the first half of the season and you need your team to hit above .265 to stay competitive, that means your hitters would need to hit around .280+ for the second half. That's very difficult. You need all your players to chip in and help you in these categories or at least not hurt it and give you a push average, ERA or Ratio. A push means that this would be your league's medium. So if your leagues' push batting average is .263 and if you have a good hitter helping you in various categories and hits .263 you can rely on your higher batting average players to help you rise in that category. Basically if you can have positive numbers on 2/3 of your roster from both hitting and pitching for the percentage categories and a push from the remaining 1/3 of your roster you will do very well in these categories.

The second rule of thumb is you need to look at your leagues standings the last three years and look at the final numbers in your league for batting average, ERA and Ratio to see what percentages fall in the top third and what falls at least in the middle of the categories. This will give you an idea what your goals have to be for the upcoming season for these categories.

Batting Average: In batting average you have more of an error factor than ERA and Ratio. Quite simply you have 14 hitters and 9 pitchers in just about every league. Most rosters have a very large percentage of their hitters play every day, while in terms of pitchers, the starters pitch once every 5 days and relievers pitch between 3 to 4 innings a week. There are a lot of hitters who can really help you in the other categories but produce poor batting averages. I am not saying these players cannot be on your team BUT you must pick your spots. You cannot have too many of these these players and I would say I wouldn't have more than 2 of these players. Furthermore if you do have a player like this, that player MUST make a significant impact in the other categories. Dan Uggla of 2011 can be one of these players to have despite his poor average but not Dan Uggla of 2012. Final point here is for everyone of those poor average hitters you have you should have a .300 hitter to offset them.

Trend Analysis Batting Average: I constructed a chart for the last five years in my own league for each percentage category and came to some stark realizations of where the NL numbers are heading (again I am in a 12 team NL only 5 X 5 Keeper League). I'm sure just by following baseball everyone knows the hitting numbers are down and the pitching numbers are up. But how much up and down? In my league last season a team batting average of .2660 finished in 5th place (a stone's throw away from 3rd place). That same batting average in 2008 would have resulted in an 11th place finish. In fact here is a little chart for .2660 batting average for my 12 team league the last 5 years.

2012 - 5th Place
2011 - 3rd Place
2010 - 6th Place
2009 - 8th Place
2008 - 11th Place

In fact in 2008, half of my league finished with a team batting average of .270 or better but in the last 3 years of my league only 5 teams over that span have finished with a team batting average of .270 or better. Now using my numbers is just one league but I am in a very competitive league and it illustrates how batting averages are decreasing. Your goal for a team batting average should be between .267 & .268 heading into next season. This should allow you to finish in the upper third of the category.

ERA and WHIP: We want to make sure we have solid numbers in these categories to stay competitive. How do we do that? We avoid all pitchers who are most likely to have negative numbers in these categories. The once exception I would make would be for a closer who can give you big save numbers. In 2008 I had Brian Wilson who had terrible percentage numbers (4.62 ERA & 1.44 Ratio) but had 41 saves and 67K's in 62 innings. I also had Wilson at a cheap price. A situation like this is not perfect but can work as it did for me in 2008 and keep in mind Wilson's poor percentage numbers were only over 62 innings. Again, you need to look at your league standings the last three seasons and see what team ERA's and Ratio's are falling in the upper third of the category. That must be your goal. Everyone needs to respect these categories as they are very volatile and it's so hard to make up ground when you fall way behind the pack. Much more difficult than batting average because you have a lot less numbers to work with in terms of IP than you you do AB's even if your league allows daily moves.

One of my upcoming articles will be about "Putting Together a Pitching Staff" and we will go into further detail on how we attack the percentage categories. But just to give you a taste, our ERA and Ratio will come from our dominant starter(s), very goo starters, our closer and our secret weapon... middle relievers. The last third of our roster will be with push starting pitchers.

Trend Analysis ERA and Ratio: Again using the chart I constructed from my league the last 5 years the ERA and Ratio final team numbers are staggering in terms of how much they changed. In terms of ERA the team that finished in last place last season in my league had a 4.14 ERA. That same ERA in 2008 would have finished in 6th place middle of the pack. In fact in 2012 3/4 of my league finished with an ERA at 4.00 or better. In 2008 only 1/3 of my league finished with a team ERA at 4.00 or better. In terms of ratio last season 10 teams out my 12 team league finished with a team ratio of 1.31 or better. In 2008 only 3 teams out of 12 finished with a team ratio of 1.31 or better. Each year since 2008 the pitching numbers have been getting better and better, many reasons why but that's an article in itself.

I hope this gives everyone a road map on how to attack the percentage categories for the upcoming season.

NL King - C.Lizza