Lord Zola's Fantasy Baseball Mailbag: Mark Reynolds, punting saves

by Todd Zola, MastersBall.com on May 16, 2011 @ 11:48:00 PDT

 


Before we get to today's mailbag which features a couple of questions from Facebook, I want to give a quick shout out to my pundit brethren that write a weekly column highlighting the two-start pitchers. As a former author of that type of column, my heart goes out to you this week as all thirty teams play a full seven-game slate. On top of that, this past weekend's weather wreaked havoc with rotations, making the job that much tougher.

Speaking of Facebook, that is one of the three primary means to send in your question. Just e-mail it to me at lordzola@kffl.com, post on the KFFL Baseball Facebook page or via Twitter by following @KFFL_Baseball.

What the heck do I do with Mark Reynolds? I have to make room for Delmon Young, we have enough third baseman on our team. Is he worth a roster spot? Is he going to hit 35 HRs? Or even 30? Ugh. My other third basemen are Martin Prado and Maicer Izturis, with Pablo Sandoval on the shelf. -- Rich Hundley, Facebook

Before we get into the roster specifics, let's take a look at the two main principles, Mark Reynolds and Delmon Young.

Minnesota Twins OF Delmon Young
Young making owners restless

Believe it or not, if you are in a position where you have no choice but to play Reynolds, there are signs in his underlying numbers that there are better days ahead. While he is still fanning at a rapid rate, Reynolds is actually striking out fewer times than in the past, and by a pretty good margin. So why is he still hitting .180? His batting average on balls in play is absurdly low and is not justified by his reasonable line drive rate. That is, Reynolds has been quite snake-bit with respect to base hits; his batting average should be higher and can be expected to climb as his hit rate corrects.

But let's be honest, you did not draft Reynolds for average. The real question is his power, as Rich asks, will it rebound? If you compare Reynolds' doubles and homer totals from the past two seasons, he smacked 47 two-baggers and 74 dingers. This season, the ratio is reversed as he has seven doubles as compared to four homers. Perhaps this is oversimplification, but if he had the same ratio as the past two seasons, the numbers would be reversed and he would have seven homers and be on a pace for about 30 and we would not be concerned about the power. So perhaps the real question is whether the doubles will start to clear the fence? Obviously, without a crystal ball, we are speculating, but based on Reynolds' history, it is very probable that ratio flips and Reynolds' homer total climbs. I think thirty is well within reason.

Looking at Delmon Young, many looked at 2010 as his breakout year and expected even better things in the 2011 campaign. Much of the optimism was based on a bloated RBI total. While it is true that Young did show a bit of a power spike and improved his contact rate, the high ribbie total was more good luck than good hitting. This led to expectations a little higher than deserved. Sure enough, before his injury, Young's contact rate and power regressed as he is homerless in 72 at bats. Obviously, he is not going to end the season without a long ball, but it is apparent that last season was not a new baseline but more a good year.

Now let's consider the question in context with Rich's roster. Quite frankly, I am not comfortable counting on either player. I am not expecting a huge bounce back from Young as I was not convinced last season's surge was real. That said, in order to justify playing Reynolds, we needs to hit more than 30 homers to compensate for the low average. If at all possible, I would look to deal Reynolds to a team in need of help at the hot corner.

Coming into the season, it was already a cesspool and with injuries, it is even more vacuous. Offense in general is down; I would look for a squad with a void at third base and sell Reynolds in this manner. If the team's average is high, I would point out how low all the other teams' is and try to convince them they can absorb Reynolds' low average. If it is low, I would tell them if they are going to carry such a low average, they may as well get serious counting stats and Reynolds is their guy.

Gun to head, if I HAD to play one or the other, I would very reluctantly choose Reynolds as I do believe his counting stats will begin to climb. But my first option would be to find a team needing help at third and dealing him for a Marlon Byrd, Josh Willingham or JD Drew type player.


Derek Holland or Jonathon Niese? This is for a long term roster spot that will start if the matchup is right or has two starts against mediocre teams. I have to release one. The league is 15 teams mixed, 6 hitting and 5 pitching categories. Paul Reed Jr., Facebook

This is a very interesting question and not as easy as I thought when I originally read it. I like to look at three factors when making a decision of this nature. The first or pretty obvious, which pitcher has better skills? The second is National League versus American League with the final being home park.

Jonathan Niese of the New York Mets gets the latter two check marks as he hurls in the Senior Circuit and Citi Field is far more pitcher friendly than the Ballpark at Arlington, the home park of the Texas Rangers' Derek Holland.

However, Holland's skills are superior to those of Niese. Holland whiffs more and allows fewer homers, even with the park disadvantage. Still, that park difference is huge which is what makes this question so intriguing.

As KFFL's Tim Heaney can attest, my original answer was going to be Niese. But upon further review, I am going to trust my philosophy of favoring pitchers that miss bats and cross my fingers Holland continues to induce ample ground balls to keep his homers down and recommend using the Texas hurler.

Todd: I would like to get your opinion on a strategy question for my 10 team, 5x5 roto league. Due to some poor drafting (Jonathan Broxton, Matt Thornton, Koji Uehara) I am in 8th place in saves. The two owners behind me have already decided to punt saves as they have no relief pitchers remaining on their rosters. My current relievers are Kyle Farnsworth, Jonny Venters, Fernando Salas, Eduardo Sanchez and Broxton (DL). The league has no innings limit but does have a 45 transaction limit for the season and I have already used 16. My question is whether I too should punt saves and go in a different direction and if so, which direction? Should I pick up more starters or relievers who pitch a lot of innings with great peripherals like Tyler Clippard or Ernesto Frieri? Your opinion would be greatly appreciated. Thanks. -- Pete D.

I am going to assume this is a redraft league as I do not believe in punting a category in a keeper league as someone is no doubt strong across the board and it is tough to compete taking a category's worth or points off the table. In a redraft league, it usually takes between 75% and 80% of the maximum available points to win, which in Pete's league would be 75-80 points. If Pete finishes first in the other nine categories, he gets 90 points, so it is mathematically possible. Let's say he gets three points in saves. He now needs 72 to 77 points in the other nine categories, meaning he has to finish no lower than third across the board, and likely higher in some as well. Is this possible? Yes. But the margin of error is very small, especially since the ratio categories (batting average, ERA and WHIP) are sometimes impacted by bad luck and cost you some points.

Another problem with punting is if you plan this from the beginning, you do not allocate resources to the category, instead fortifying the others in an effort to maximize those points. Pete did not have the luxury of doing this, as he drafted Broxton and Thornton, which, for what it is worth, was not bad drafting, just bad results, but I digress. The point is, in order to pull this off, Pete's offense is going to have to be stellar without having the benefit of using the closer picks on better hitters.

Pete, here is my advice. If you do not believe you can acquire the saves necessary to gain a few more points, I would parlay Farnsworth and Salas into a hitting upgrade, then focus on the high skilled set up men like you suggest, but pick some that may become closers. Once they become closers, trade them to someone looking for saves and improve your hitting even more. KFFL has an excellent bullpen review to help you find the next-in-line relievers. Some possibilities to consider are Luke Gregerson, Mike M. Adams, Daniel Bard, Aaron Crow, David Pauley, LaTroy Hawkins and Rich Thompson. Then later in the season, you can decide if it would be better to jack up your wins and strikeouts with more starters. By that time, you should have a nice foundation of solid innings so your ERA and WHIP can absorb a couple of rough outings as you fish for starters.

When Todd is not changing his mind after taking a closer look at the numbers behind the numbers, you can find him hanging out on the forum at Mastersball.

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About Todd Zola, MastersBall.com

Focusing primarily on the science of player valuation and game theory starting in 1997, Todd Zola and Mastersball carved out an important niche in the fantasy industry. In 2006, Todd became the Research Director for fantasybaseball.com, and in 2009, he relaunched Mastersball and is now a managing partner.

Todd competes in Tout Wars and the XFL, and has been a multiple-time league champion in the National Fantasy Baseball Championship. He has been a contributor to the fantasy content at MLB.com and SI.com, is a frequent guest on Sirius/XM and Blog Talk Radio and is an annual speaker at the spring and fall First Pitch Forum symposiums.

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