Today: $150 Free Fantasy Baseball Challenge

If you missed it Wednesday, you still have time to sign up for’s $150 fantasy baseball freeroll, exclusive to Crashburn Alley readers. The top five places will earn cash. All you have to do is set up a fantasy baseball roster for tonight’s games. Setting up your team isn’t as easy as it sounds, as you’ll have to balance your roster within a $100,000 budget. Grabbing Halladay at $16,000 means you may have to sacrifice quality elsewhere on your roster.

Have fun with it, and feel free to share your results here in the comments.



Room for the Starting Rotation to Improve?

This statistical nugget was posted by @Slap_Bet on Twitter during Wednesday’s Phillies/Nationals game:

Phillies starters have the second highest babip in the majors

And it’s true! Via Baseball Reference:

Team G BAbip
CHC 54 .337
PHI 56 .324
HOU 56 .306
MIL 56 .301
FLA 54 .300
SDP 56 .300
WSN 55 .299
CIN 57 .298
LAD 57 .296
STL 57 .295
NYM 55 .295
SFG 55 .289
PIT 54 .285
ARI 56 .283
ATL 57 .275
COL 55 .273
TOT 890 .297
Provided by View Original Table
Generated 6/2/2011.

The breakdown by starter:

Pitcher G BAbip
Joe Blanton 6 .376
Vance Worley 4 .358
Cliff Lee 12 .344
Roy Halladay 12 .316
Roy Oswalt 9 .302
Cole Hamels 11 .296
Kyle Kendrick 2 .280
Team Total 56 .324
Provided by View Original Table
Generated 6/2/2011.

The Phillies’ staff as a whole allows the fourth-fewest line drives in baseball (17.4 percent) and gives up hits on them at nearly the National League average (72.1 percent to the NL’s 71.4 percent). They also allow the fifth-fewest fly balls (34.2 percent) as well and give up hits on those at exactly the NL average (13.8 percent).

By the process of elimination, or sheer knowledge of the staff, you may be able to deduce that Phillies pitchers must induce a lot of ground balls. They do, at the third-highest clip in the Majors (48 percent). Those have not been converted into outs at a 27 percent rate, 3.4 percent above the NL average. With 723 ground balls induced, the additional 3.4 percent accounts for about 25 hits, or roughly 13 percent of the 195 total ground ball hits.

Using the current distribution on ground ball hits (93 percent singles, seven percent doubles), and the linear weights assigned to events in wOBA, we can get a general idea of how harmful the below-average conversion of ground balls into outs has been so far.

(.93 * 25) = 23 singles, (.07 * 25) = 2 doubles

(23 * .77) = 18 runs for singles, (2 * 1.08) = 2 runs for doubles; 20 runs total (or roughly two wins)

Is the culprit just bad luck? The Phillies have the third-worst defensive efficiency in the Majors at .698. They also have the ninth-worst UZR at -8.2. Looking at specific players reveals that only the second basemen (Wilson Valdez, Pete Orr, Chase Utley) have been harmful defensively among the infielders. The trio combine for a -3.6 UZR which is negated by Placido Polanco (+3.5), Ryan Howard (+0.1), and Jimmy Rollins (0.0). So, no, the infield is not truly to blame.

So, let’s take a look at Phillies’ pitchers’ BABIP on ground balls.

Pitcher G BAbip
Roy Halladay 12 .309
Cliff Lee 12 .308
Joe Blanton 6 .297
Roy Oswalt 9 .286
Cole Hamels 11 .245
Kyle Kendrick 12 .220
Vance Worley 6 .182
Team Total 56 .270
Provided by View Original Table
Generated 6/2/2011.

Remember, the NL average is .236, so everyone but Kendrick and Worley has been unfortunate in this regard. Halladay, Lee, Blanton (if and when he returns), and Oswalt should not be this unlucky on grounders going forward. That means that tweets like this and this should become more and more infrequent. In combination with this information and comparing their ERA to your retrodictor of choice (mine is SIERA), we can set our expectations for the rotation going forward.

  • Halladay: 2.56 ERA / 2.66 SIERA
  • Lee: 3.94 ERA / 2.81 SIERA
  • Hamels: 3.01 ERA / 2.62 SIERA
  • Oswalt: 2.70 ERA / 4.13 SIERA

In the big picture, Hamels should continue to be great, Halladay should improve slightly, Lee should improve greatly (assuming his cutter isn’t a problem, which would run contrary to many popular theories floating around), and Oswalt should get a bit worse despite BABIP regression as his strikeout rate is way down. Assuming Kendrick doesn’t make two to three complete disaster starts, the Phillies rotation appears to have better things in store as the 2011 season moves along.