Fantasy Baseball Roundtable: Michael Pineda's change in value

by Todd Zola, MastersBall.com on January 23, 2012 @ 09:20:21 PDT

 


Welcome to the second installation of Lord Zola's Fantasy Baseball Roundtable. This week, my knights are going to discuss the repercussions of the recent blockbuster consummated between the New York Yankees and Seattle Mariners.

QUESTION: How are you adjusting your ranking or value for the Yankees' Michael Pineda following the trade sending Jesus Montero to Seattle?

Perry Van Hook, author of "The Captain's Log," puts the question in perspective:

Obviously the question is how much will the additional Wins offset the higher ERA and WHIP?

Personally (despite my owning him in my AL keeper league) I have lowered him about four spots on my starting pitcher lists.

Lawr Michaels, the Zen Master, lives up to his moniker:


Will M's toss Montero behind dish?

Well, by the same token that a good hitter can hit anywhere, a good pitcher can pitch anywhere, I don't see much change.

And, though I never even thought directly about Pineda getting more wins (that kind of stuff does not process in my head too much, but would never really chase wins anyway) but, I do think in terms of playing on a winning team, and I think that might offset some ballpark factors (which I generally don't pay too much attention to just ‘cause, well, half a guy's starts are not at home, and half at home are likely against weaker teams).

And, well, for better or worse, I also think playing on the Yankees makes a difference.

As does playing on a team with serious hitters, and an actual rotation.

So, whatever environmental issues might impact on the downside, I think there is an upside of a guy - in this case Pineda - stepping up his game because of the trade and team and playing in New York (though granted, it is too much for some personalities).

If I had Pineda as a well priced keeper, I would keep him.

But, I have had no thoughts about him moving up or down on any lists in drafts, but I pay no attention to ADP or anything like that anyway.

Brian Walton, author of "Articles of Configuration," expresses some concern:

It seems that fairly often, a pitcher donning the pinstripes for the first time will migrate toward one extreme or another. Either he steps up his game or folds under the pressure. I have never met Pineda, but have read some who do think he will be up for the challenge and will meet it. Until I see it, however, I am not bumping him up.

On the other side of the coin, how will Montero react in going from a starting gig in the Bronx to Seattle - a club that finished in last place, 29 games out of first (and with 30 fewer wins than NYY)? Will he be asked to catch more, potentially leading to greater fatigue and lower offensive totals? Will he be pitched around more, given the relative weakness of the Mariners' batting order?

Park factors would seem to indicate that both players should have a greater challenge as Safeco favors pitchers while Yankee Stadium is a hitters' haven. All told, I am not thrilled about the initial benefit to either.

Ryan Carey, NFBC League Champion, cites some park factors:

I agree with Perry that Pineda's stock takes a hit, as the move to the AL East and Yankee Stadium will see his ERA and WHIP rise. Most will bump him up thanks to the pinstripes, but I for one am not going to chase him now. He's an exciting young pitcher who will rack up a lot of K's, but he is a right-handed fly-ball pitcher heading to the stadium that increases home-runs for lefty batters by 40%. This change comes after pitching in Safeco, which did just the opposite to lefty swingers. So he is going to give up more HRs, there is no way around it. Only time will tell how the young hurler reacts to this reality. I am not saying that he is going to be a bust, just that he isn't going to be contending for any ERA titles anytime soon. Yes the Yankee offense will win him some games, but a much stronger bullpen and innings limits may cost him just as many W's. He'll be good, but the move to the Yankees doesn't suddenly make him an ace in my book. Unfortunately, the extra hype will drive his price upward to the point that if those W's don't materialize, what then? For example, he just went in a draft ahead of James Shields, Stephen Strasburg, Jon Lester, Dan Hudson, Madison Bumgarner and Adam Wainwright. I wouldn't draft him ahead of Shields, Lester or Hudson at this point and might even lean to the other three NL starters if push came to shove. What these names show is that there are even better options around Pineda than there were before.

Montero on the other hand I have already moved up a couple slots, mainly because he seems much more likely to get 500 AB in Seattle and likely gain C eligibility more quickly. I really don't think Safeco affects his power numbers that much, because for a right handed batter, Yankee Stadium is almost as daunting with their "Death Valley" in left-center. He will likely immediately slot into the heart of the Mariners lineup, while in NY he would have hit in the bottom third, so he should have a much better opportunity to drive in runs in Seattle. While I wouldn't go crazy on Montero - I think he makes the ideal guy to target if you are waiting at C.

Nick Minnix, projection guru for KFFL, explains:

It's kind of hard to disagree with the early consensus. Our projection is adjusted for a higher hit rate against, which I think was defensible regardless of the move, and otherwise, it's based more on the expectation of his development. I expect, if anything, perhaps a slight reduction in his K/9, but for him to offset it a bit by polishing his BB/9, like he did in the second half. Pineda will give up more home runs and runs, I'm sure, but he's likely to notch a couple more W's, perhaps even a few more.

I hear Lawr about the difficulty in projecting and chasing wins, but I don't see how it's illogical to conclude that Pineda should win more often now that he's on the Yankees and not on the M's. The Yanks had the best 'pen in the AL last year, at least judging by ERA. The combination of talent that New York has at the back end in comparison to Seattle, the fact that the Yanks should be willing to let Pineda go a little deeper in each game in his second full season, when he's on, and of course the better expected run support should account for an increase in wins. How much "should" is worth, impossible to say definitively, but if should equals 2 or 3, that's worth a decent bit of ground in the standings, at least when things are tight.

Ryan's points are plenty fair. Guess I should've answered the question, too - in the grand scheme, the ranking doesn't change much with whatever tweaks I made. I'll say that I'd be shocked if people valued him as a roto ace, before or after the move, but I'd probably have that look frozen on my face by now if that's all it took. I think the real question regarding Pineda is how to value him relative to the field, and my guess is, the field values him much more than I do. If the move to the Yanks only furthers the idea that he's on the verge of fantasy ace-dom, then the field and I are at greater odds. There seems to be this common notion that a young player who rocks it is only going to get better in year after breakthrough performance. I'm sure that happens in some cases, but for the most part, the expectation is just unfair. Guess what? It's not easy to be good in the majors. I think, somewhere, that gets lost. He has the capacity to be extremely good, but there will be more growing pains, adjustments, etc., and now you're throwing the move to the Bronx onto it. Please see: King Felix, Year 2 (and even 3 and 4, to a degree). Some folks were ready to throw in the towel then.

And for the record, I have nothing to say about Montero until Todd asks.

Lawr brings up a personal fave:

Apparently both (Montero and Pineda) have more consideration than A.J. Burnett though, huh?

I had always thought Pineda was a number three starter. Though, he still is. I am OK with him; I am OK without him.

New York Yankees P A.J. Burnett
Burnett: What a way to get sidetracked

(We now interrupt your regularly scheduled Michael Pineda discussion for a sidebar on A.J. Burnett)

Nick takes the bait (apparently not feeling the need to wait for Todd's permission):

Hahaha ... I'd say that Burnett is going to end up getting a raw deal, but he's had plenty of time to demonstrate his value. Still think 2012 could shape up as a profitable one for him - from him? - Perhaps even more so, now. Isn't he playing for a new deal?

Perry cuts to the chase:

Burnett is gone to the first team that will pay anything for him....bag of balls, case of beer....ANYTHING.

Lawr channel's his Masters in Literature:

That is a far cry from Omar Khayyam's "a loaf of bread, a jug of wine, and thou..."

Zach Steinhorn, author of "Diary of a Madman," rues:

Two more years for A.J. Ugh! I'm not touching him. Maybe in 2013.

Nick makes an offer:

I'd give a KEG (of something decent, even, like Sam Adams) for two years of Burnett!

(We now return you to your regularly scheduled Michael Pineda discussion)

Tim Heaney, Nick's projection aide, fights off his jetlag:

Checking in after just getting home from Vegas....

Most will point to Pineda's newfound run support as a reason to bump his wins. It makes sense to do so but shouldn't be done blindly. His fly-ball allowance on the surface makes him susceptible to Yankee Stadium's homer-happy ways. His move away from Safeco Field and into the AL East fray, along with his second-half decline last year, will probably scare many off. Is fatigue a concern given his funky delivery? The M's shut him down in September, but he still falls within the parameters of the so-called "Verducci Effect" for young arms. 

His K/9 will hold my attention regardless of these risks, which might allow him to slip a bit in many drafts. I'm not altering his value much; the offense and worse ambience cancel each other out, so to speak, keeping him as a shaky No. 2 fantasy arm who still boasts a ton of upside, especially with raw stuff that could play against strong lineups.

The 23-year-old's strong build and tantalizing skills have me thinking he'll defy a sophomore slump - or at least stave off a collapse - along the lines of his former teammate Felix Hernandez, instead of backsliding like other young arms. A regression won't boot Pineda from fantasy's top 30 mixed SPs.

Chris Kreush, author of "The NL Beat," had some extra time on his hands:

I foresee an increase in win total of about 4 and still expect an ERA in the 3.70 - 3.80 range. The Yankees have learned to be more patient with their younger arms and will do the same for Pineda. They score a boatload of runs in the first five innings - enough to give Pineda a nice cushion to get victories while being able to limit his innings at the same time. Even A.J. Burnett won 11 games in NY and it isn't a stretch at this point to consider Pineda a better pitcher.

As a matter of curiosity, I superimposed Pineda's fly balls in Safeco over Yankee Stadium and the resulting net addition in HR was - zero. In fact, that was the result in all ballparks, including Coors and The Ballpark in Arlington. Granted, that doesn't take into consideration atmospheric conditions and different wind patterns but was pretty interesting nonetheless. If the data is correct, most of his fly balls were of the shallow to medium depth variety with none of them even on the warning track.

Zach has managed to get over the possibility of two more years of Burnett and opines:

I can safely say that there's a 99 percent chance I won't own Pineda in any leagues this year. When drafting starting pitching, I look for bargains, whether they be guys currently viewed as mid-rotation types who I think have top-15 potential or players who might have been overvalued last season but undervalued this season. Pineda doesn't fit either of these descriptions. Not to say that he won't have a successful year, but I'm just not willing to pay an early-round price to find out. The adjustment to New York challenge is a real one (See Javier Vazquez '04 and '10), and I'm not sure how the 23-year-old will handle it, at least initially. All in all, I don't think his value changes drastically, as the possible rise in the ratio stats are somewhat offset by the increased wins potential. But since I'm not a believer in drafting for wins, I'll knock him down a few spots on my cheat sheet. Ultimately though, for me it's not as much about where Pineda should rank among starting pitchers as it is about my general reluctance to reach for any starting pitcher, let alone a starting pitcher who carries a considerable amount of uncertainty.

As for Montero, I'm giving him a moderate bump up in the rankings. As the saying goes, "hitters hit," and I've already seen enough of him to convince me that he has a bright future. Yeah, he will be moving from a stacked lineup to an inept one, from a hitter-friendly park to a pitcher's paradise. For fantasy purposes though, the playing time factor and the position factor are more important. With the Yankees, Montero was far from guaranteed an everyday starting spot. His defense behind the plate is still raw and Russell Martin is already on the roster. Seattle, on the other hand, has every incentive to let him grow as a catcher and provide the club with strong offensive production at an offensively weak position. It's all but certain that he will gain catcher eligibility in 2012, and for fantasy owners this obviously makes a huge difference. 

Lord Zola's wrap-up:

Even though I have the reputation of being a numbers guy, I am not a huge park factor guy, unless we are talking extremes. Suffice it to say Safeco Field and the new Yankee Stadium are at polar ends of the extremes, thus the park change does matter. By the numbers, if you strictly look at the park factors and not consider any of the human elements, Pineda's ERA should rise by half a run while his WHIP goes up a tick as well. With respect to wins, I like to use the Bill James Pythagorean approach which yields four more wins as a Yankee. Plugging this into the black box of value, Pineda loses about $7 worth of value, which is quite significant. In fact, he would need to win 20 games for the move to be a wash in terms of value, assuming his ERA and WHIP follow the park factors. For those that like to rank players in tiers, Pineda goes from the second tier to the third tier.

Personally, the way I am going to approach it is Pineda goes from near the top to the bottom of my second tier. I am still comfortable taking him as my SP3 in mixed leagues. Previously, I may have accepted him as an SP2 depending on my SP1. Now, I prefer him as my SP3, but if I get him, I may wait a little longer for my SP4.

The reason I am willing to keep him in the second tier despite the huge drop in raw value (by the numbers) is one pratfall of park factors is they work in a global sense but individuals may not be impacted in the same manner. I do not think it is a stretch to suggest that someone of lesser quality than Pineda would be more affected by this change of venue. Pineda could be the counter balance on the other side of the fulcrum, averaging out the park factor.

With respect to Montero, I would like to respectfully disagree with a couple of my colleagues as I think the first thing Seattle will do is show their new slugger where his locker is and the second is ask him to turn in his catcher's mitt as he will not be needing it. You do not give up a pitcher of Pineda's ilk to stick a defensively challenged 22-year-old backstop behind the plate. You give him a bat and say "Go get 'em, big guy." They acquired Montero to rake, not to learn a pitching staff while also trying to get used to what could initially be an unsettling hitting environment. Factor in Seattle has a pair of established MLB receivers in Miguel Olivo and John Jaso and it is not like they need Montero to catch.

Finally, we will conclude this week's Roundtable with a note on Burnett. Aside from the strong possibility he does not have a rotation spot coming into the season, Burnett is a huge risk in a fantasy sense. The main reason is pitching in general is in a state that does not require hitting on long shots like Burnett to be competitive. There are a plethora of more reliable and stable options from which to choose. Compounding the matter is risky pitchers are best used at home until they prove their worth, but this advantage is mitigated by the park factors discussed above. I can understand the case to make Burnett a reserve, however. He has shown the ability to be a dominant winner in the past and is a better walk rate away from doing so again. On the off chance he indeed improves his control, he is worth stashing. And even if he does not, assuming your league permits trading, there will eventually be a team whose ratios are so poor they decide to focus on wins and strikeouts, rendering Burnett quite useful.

That will do it for today. Remember to keep an eye on Facebook and Twitter for the announcement of our next discussion topic.

Todd is the Content Manager for the Mastersball Platinum Subscription product, featuring frequently updated player projections, values, rankings and profiles along with unique Excel tools, Minor League rankings and cutting edge strategy essays. Click HERE for details.

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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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