Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Finding Keepers: Oakland Athletics

The 2010 Oakland Athletics were a team with a highly-effective pitching staff (lowest team ERA in the AL) and that was reflected in the fact that their top fantasy performers were three starting pitchers and their closer but how does that translate into keepers?

At just 22 years old, SP Trevor Cahill came out of nowhere to post a very good 18-8, 2.97 ERA, 1.11 WHIP season for fantasy owners but let's take a deeper look at some numbers. Cahill only struck out 118 in 196.2 innings while walking 63 for less than stellar ratios of 5.4 K/9 and 1.87 K/BB. His BAA of .220 was 40 points below the MLB average of .260 while his BABIP(*) was .237 compared to the MLB average of .298. So from my relatively low understanding of BABIP is that either he was very lucky or that he played in front of a very good defense or a little of both. Are you willing to bet a valuable keeper selection on him to find out if he can repeat this at such an early age? In your standard 5x5 league with 60 total keepers, I say no. In much deeper dynasty leagues with expanded scoring categories, maybe.

(*)NOTE: This is the first time I've quoted BABIP in an article. I'm trying to expand my knowledge and understanding of the more commonly referenced sabermetric statistics seen in articles these days. Please call me out if I have misinterpreted or misused BABIP.

SP Dallas Braden (27), SP Gio Gonzalez (25) and SP Brett Anderson (22) make up the rest of Oakland's very young and talented rotation but each comes with pros and cons in the keeper debate. Braden owns a perfect game but has a career W/L record of 25-35 (.417%), a 4.20 ERA, a 1.33 WHIP and just a 5.5 K/9 ratio. Gonzalez owns the highest career K/9 ratio at 8.5 but also the worst BB/9 ratio of 4.7 to go along with his 4.43 ERA and 1.47 WHIP. In 49 career starts, Anderson owns some of the more impressive numbers of the group such as a 3.57 ERA, a 1.25 WHIP and ratios of 7.0 K/9, 2.1 BB/9 and a 3.36 K/BB. Again, depending on the depth of your keeper selections, I wouldn't question trying to capture lightning in a bottle by selecting any of these four as a keeper but the risks involved have me leaning towards no in most formats. I'd rather target them all at a specific point in my draft and if they aren't there simply move on.

OF Coco Crisp was Oakland's highest-ranked position player and considering he only appeared in 75 games doesn't speak well of this team's offensive abilities. Crisp now comes with the label "injury-prone" in fantasy circles and that's never a good thing when talking keepers. His 162 game averages of .277/92/12/65/30 make him a very good fantasy asset (when healthy) but too risky to tag him a keeper target.

Ask yourself how valuable a decent offensive catcher is to the overall success of your fantasy team. Or ask the opposite of how much of a liability having a below average catcher is to your success. C Kurt Suzuki only hit .242 with a very low BABIP of .245 but still managed 13 home runs and 71 RBI. If he can get his batting average back up into the .270s, he'd be a top-10 catcher again who deserves consideration as a keeper.

Best of the rest but not keepers:
  • DH Hideki Matsui was brought to Oakland to provide a proven offensive presence to the middle of their lineup but only projecting to be about a .275/67/20/73 hitter (per
  • OF Josh Willingham is another acquisition that was brought in to provide some offense to the middle of their lineup but may only bring a .260/70/20/70 line into the mix.
  • 1B Daric Barton led the AL in walks with 110 but provided just 10 HR and 57 RBI with a .273 BA. He has more value in leagues that use OBP (.393) instead of BA, but still not a keeper.
  • A shortstop that can steal 30 bases should be a lock for a keeper but SS Cliff Pennington brings little else to the table.
The current Oakland roster is filled with many good fantasy assets/options/pieces but none stand out as a "no-brainer" keeper. Do you see it differently? Did I miss someone? Are you a diehard A's fan that just wants to discuss your outlook for the upcoming season? If so, feel free to use the comments section to talk about all things Oakland Athletics.

If you'd like to check out the rest of my "Finding Keepers" articles, click here or check out the "Article Tags" section of my blog to the right.

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