(3) Chris Perez popped for dope.
By Ray Flowers
(3) Chris Perez popped for dope.
By Ray Flowers
(1) Brandon Morrow (obqliue) – conflicting reports on his health/return date.
(2) CC Sabathia shockingly headed to DL with groin issue.
(3) Daniel Hudson’s elbow barking – tests being run. Patrick Corbin called up.
(4) Aroldis Chapman/Santiago Casilla rebound from recent hiccups.
(5) Ryan Braun’s elbow barking – out of lineup Weds. Hopes to return Friday.
(6) Jed Lowrie’s average going down, but he’s flashing a big time power bat (he’s knocking on top-10 status at the position over at Fleaflicker).
By Ray Flowers
The Yankees and the Pirates worked out a deal that sends the hard throwing A.J. Burnett to the Pirates in exchange for Diego Moreno and Exicardo Cayones (neither is a top prospect). The Pirates also received $18 million from the Yanks to help offset the $31 million that Burnett is due to the next two seasons. Just what type of arm did the Pirates roster for the sum of $6.5 million the next two years?
Burnett’s big ticket item in the fantasy game are the punchouts. You may not have realized it, but A.J. struck out 173 batters last season, one fewer than Max Scherzer, the same total as Michael Pineda, four more than Daniel Hudson and seven more than Wandy Rodriguez. Moreover, the past five years Burnett has struck out 920 batters which just so happens to be the 10th best mark in baseball. It’s also heartening to see that he pushed his K/9 mark back over eight last season after seeing it dip to 6.99 in 2010. He isn’t likely to strike out 200 in the coming campaign, but he could easily post another season of 170 (don’t overlook the fact that he will face pitchers instead of the DH).
All those K’s bring up another point with Burnett. Though he’s long been thought of as an injury risk, and rightly so mind you, he’s actually been pretty darn healthy the past four years never failing to hurl at least 185 innings. His total of 805.1 innings the past four years is 22nd in baseball, ahead of guys like Matt Garza (790.1), Gavin Floyd (780.1), John Danks (778.2), Chad Billingsley (776.2) and Ted Lilly (768). It seems like you can safely roster Burnett expecting him to make 30 starts covering 180 innings, and that stability might help you sleep a bit better at night.
Now Burnett has his fault, and this piece isn’t going to be written with rose colored glasses. He still walks too many batters, last year he issued 3.92 walks per nine innings slightly above his 3.79 career mark, but that’s well within the random variation level of acceptance (even if the number is elevated when compared to the big league average). Something he has not been able to get a handle on though is the long ball. The past three years he’s had a HR/9 mark of at least 1.09 including last years mark of 1.47, a career worst (you can at least partly blame a massive 17.0 percent HR/F rate that was well above his 11.3 career mark). This is an area where he could see some improvement. In 2011 Yankee Stadium was 26 percent above the average AL park in terms of allowing home runs according to Park Indices. His new home in Pittsburgh was 19 below the NL average according to Park Indices clearly pointing to the fact that he might be able to see a fair amount of decrease in his homer rate.
Burnett posted a 49.2 percent ground ball rate last year, and that was a four year best. If he can hold on to that number in 2012, while seeing a slight reduction in his HR/9 mark (the park alone should supply that), he could be in line for a significant improvement in his ERA (his xFIP last year, which is the rate normalized to a league average HR rate, showed a three year best at 3.86. How differently would you be looking at him right now if his ERA was 3.86 versus his actual mark of 5.15?).
Here are the facts as I see them.
Burnett has thrown at least 185 innings each of the past four years.
His strikeout total the last five years is the 10th best in baseball.
In 2011 his K/9 and BB/9 rates were smack on his career marks.
His left on base percentage was 70.0 percent (career 71.4).
His GB/FB ratio was 1.52 (career 1.50).
His line drive rate was 18.5 percent (career 18.4).
I don’t know about you, but that certainly doesn’t sound like a guy who should have had a 5.15 ERA. In fact, it sounds much more like the guy who owns a career mark of 4.10. Bid accordingly on draft day 0 i.e. think of the 2009 version (13-9, 4.04 ERA, 1.40 WHIP and 195 Ks) – as Burnett is likely to offer a solid return on investment because you will likely be able to add him for relative peanuts when others at the draft are starting to swig their beer and make plans to hit the bar scene (to see how little love that Burnett is getting, take a look at Fleaflicker).
Don’t forget to pick up a copy of the 2012 Fantasy Baseball Draft Guide.
By Ray Flowers
Ian Kennedy tied for the NL lead last year with 21 victories. You know that I’m not a huge fan of win-loss records when it comes to defining a pitcher, but when a guy goes 21-4 – Clayton Kershaw went 21-5 – you have to pay attention. So why is it that some fantasy baseball players are taking Daniel Hudson before they look Ian Kennedy’s way at the draft table in 2012? That’s a very good question. Perhaps they think, as I will argue, that Kennedy has little chance of replicating his 2011 effort.
Some facts about Kennedy’s 2011 season.
Kennedy tied for the NL lead in wins.
Kennedy posted a 2.88 ERA. Only seven pitchers in the NL bettered that mark.
Kennedy struck out 198 batters. Only seven NL pitchers had more.
Kennedy posted a 1.08 WHIP. Only five NL hurlers had a better mark.
Kennedy had a .227 BAA. Only four NL hurlers were tougher to hit.
Kennedy tossed 222 innings. Only four NL hurlers threw more innings.
All of that certainly makes Kennedy seem like an elite hurler, does it not?
The strikeouts are legit. Over the last two years his K/9 mark has been 7.79 and 8.03. When a pitcher does that in more than 400-innings I’m buying it.
One of the main keys to his surge from solid to dominating last year was the fact that he stopped beating himself. Over his first 253.2 big league innings he walked 3.80 batters per nine innings, about a half batter above the big league average. Last year he chopped that number down like a lumberjack whacking weeds as his BB/9 mark shrank to 2.23. It’s hard to know if we should trust his work last season completely, an in truth, I don’t. Pitchers just don’t cut a batter from their walk rate overnight (his rate was 3.25 in 2010). I wouldn’t be surprised to see him give back some of those gains. Moreover, I’d feel more comfortable expecting a BB/9 mark closer to his 2010 rate than his mark from 2011.
Kennedy is as run of the mill as it gets when we talk about GB/FB ratios. In fact, he’s never posted a league average mark of 1.10 (last year’s 0.98 rate was a career best). I will give Kennedy credit for cutting the fly ball rate a bit last year, he was three percentage points below his career norm, but unfortunately most of those batted balls ended up as line drives instead of ground balls. If he keeps that trend up in 2012 you’d have to think he would allow more hits than he did last season. In addition, his left on base percentage of 79.2 percent was huge (it was the 9th highest mark in baseball). It was four percent better than his rate from 2010 and about nine percentage points clear of the league average. That doesn’t speak to a repeat effort in the ERA column. Neither does his xFIP which places his ERA last season at 3.50. All of this data paints a pitcher who had a perfect storm last season which helped to maximize hie performance.
What do I think about Kennedy? I think he will be a solid pitcher in 2012. As I wrote above, the strikeouts are legit, an if he stays healthy long enough to toss 200-innings he’ll be a benefit in that category. I worry about his ability to keep his ratios as low as they were last season given the drastic improvement he made in the walk column, the fact that his LOB% was so high and that his GB/FB ratio was so mediocre. If you’re drafting Kennedy in 2012 make sure your expectations are reasonable. If you roster him thinking he will be a top-30 starter you have a good chance that your expectations will be met. If you think he’s a top-15 arm you’ll more than likely end up a bit disappointed in the Diamondbacks’ righty.
By Ray Flowers
Pitching is the name of the game, and you can never have too much of it. I thought I’d go around the league and take a look at a handful of pitchers that toed the rubber Wednesday night. Here are my thoughts.
Kyle Drabek: 3-4, 4.69 ERA, 45 Ks, 1.69 WHIP in 63.1 IP
The kid hit rock bottom Wednesday as he allowed four runs while getting only two outs. At this point it’s hard to trust him in an AL-only league, let alone a mixed league setup. The primary culprit has been a complete inability to throw the ball over the plate. Over his last 10 starts he’s walked less than three guys only one time, and six times he’s walked at least four batters. On the year his BB/9 rate is a ghastly 6.40. My goodness, he has two more walks than strikeouts on the campaign. The guy still has a bright future, but your a certified masochist if you’re continuing to roll him out there each start.
Daniel Hudson: 6-5, 4.22 ERA, 67 Ks, 1.30 WHIP in 79 IP
Hudson has won his last three decisions, and six of his last seven for the surging D’backs. Hudson has also thrown at least six innings each of the last eight times he’s taken the hill, and six of those outings have been “quality.” Unfortunately he has been beaten around his last two outings allowing nine earned runs in 13 innings. On the plus side he allowed only a single walk in those two outings. On the year he has a solid 7.63 K/9 mark, and his 3.53 K/BB ratio also portends a lot of success when his BABIP mark recedes (it’s currently .338). See if you can use his poor last two outings to snatch him away from his current owner.
Colby Lewis: 5-5, 3.48 ERA, 55 Ks, 1.15 WHIP in 75 IP
Three weeks ago in Buy or Sell – AL Version, I suggested buying Lewis. Since that time he has posted a 1.82 ERA, a 1.10 WHIP and 3.43 K/BB ratio in four starts, so after a rough start to the year Lewis has totally turned things around. He isn’t walking anyone, he’s only issued 10 walks in his last seven starts, and he has thrown a “quality” start up in six of his last seven outings. Moreover, dating back to the start of last season when he returned to the States from a stay in Japan, Lewis has thrown 276 innings posting a 1.18 WHIP, the 22nd best mark in baseball for a pitcher who has tossed at least 200-innings in that time.
Brett Myers: 2-4, 4.82 ERA, 53 Ks, 1.47 WHIP in 74.2 IP
Myers had a magical season last year. Not so much this year. His trademark consistency from last year has pretty much vanished. Oh he’s throwing his innings, at least six in all but two of his 11 starts (the other two times he fell an out short), but there has been no consistency in his performance. Well that might not be fair either. He’s been consistently below average of late allowing at least four earned runs in six of his last eight outings. It’s the same old story with Myers as the culprit has been the long ball. His current mark of 1.81 is preposterously high, more than double his 0.80 mark from last season and more than half a homer more than his career rate (1.29). You have to think the homer total will regress moving forward, but even so his xFIP which normalizes for homers is just 4.24. Be wary.
Brian Matusz: 0-0, 1.69 ERA, 3 Ks, 0.71 WHIP in 5.2 IP
Matusz made his long awaited 2011 debut Wednesday night after being sidelined the first two months of the year because of an intercostal strain. Everyone is jazzed about the young lefty after his impressive second half last year that included a 7-3 record, 3.63 ERA and 1.19 WHIP over his last 14 starts. He could certainly replicate those numbers this season, but remember he is coming off injury, is young, and pitches in a wicked tough division – the AL East.
Javier Vazquez: 3-4, 6.02 ERA, 35 Ks, 1.54 WHIP in 58.1 IP
Vazquez has been awful for most of the season. However, he seems to have somewhat turned the corner. On May 15th, in his darkest hour, Vazquez owned a 7.55 ERA and seemed destined to lose his starting role with the Marlins. Since that time he’s made three starts, lasted at least six innings each time out, and posted an ERA of 2.84 with a WHIP of 0.79. Moreover, he’s whiffed 15 while issuing only three free passes. Problem solved eh? It’s far too early to say that, but given his track record of success, and we’re talking about more than a decades worth, perhaps this wily veteran should be given the benefit of the doubt when it comes to his recent work – maybe he has it in him to once again be a useful pitcher.
And one rookie who didn’t pitch Wednesday…
Jordan Lyles: 0-0, 2.57 ERA, 4 Ks, 0.71 WHIP in seven IP
The Astros top pitching prospect and #42 overall prospect according to Baseball America, Jordan had a strong first outing, a great effort actually for a guy who can’t even legally pull back on a bottle of Captain Morgan (and who doesn’t want to do that on a daily basis?). At the same time, it would be wise to keep expectations in check. Lyles is only 20 years old and has only 16 games of experience at Triple-A where he posted a 3.97 ERA and 1.46 WHIP. He knows how to pitch, and likely will have a long and successful career, but Lyles just doesn’t profile as a top of the rotation fantasy arm.
By Ray Flowers
(1) Hanley Ramirez, Ryan Zimmerman likely done for the year. You can read more about those tow in MLB Player Rater.
(2) Justin Upton likely done with shoulder issue.
(3) Joe Mauer still out (knee). Likely back on Thursday.
(4) Josh Hamilton still out but he hit on Tuesday.
(5) Miguel Cabrera out with ankle issue.
(6) Daniel Hudson done for the year.
(7) Jimmy Rollins returns for Phillies.
(8) Giants juggle rotation to set up Tim Lincecum.
By Ray Flowers
I wrote my weekly National League breakdown piece today. Here are a few of the tidbits that really stuck out for me.
* Daniel Hudson leads the NL with 79.2 innings pitched since August 1st.
* Tommy Hanson has a 2.77 ERA and 0.97 WHIP over his last 14 starts. He is 2-6 in that time.
* Carlos Zambrano is 6-0 with a 1.63 ERA over his last 12 appearances.
* Scott Rolen has 20 homers on the year but only three in his last 50 games.
* Melvin Mora is hitting .325 with 17 RBI in the month of September.
* Clay Hensley has a 2.25 ERA and a K per inning over 72 frames.
* Bud Norris has 152 Ks over 147.2 innings.
* Rod Barajas has five homers in 59 at-bats with the Dodgers.
* Randy Wolf has a 2.56 ERA over his last 10 starts.
* Carlos Beltran is hitting .329 with a .991 OPS in the month of September.
* Ryan Madson has made 42 appearances since the All-Star break with a 1.32 ERA and 0.89 WHIP.
* The Pirates have only only player who is hitting above .250 while qualifying for the batting title (502 plate appearances). It’s Andrew McCutchen at .284.
* Jon Jay is hitting a mere .214 over his last 25 games.
* Will Venable is batting an insane .529 over his last nine starts.
*Aubrey Huff is leading the Giants in the Triple Crown categories (.291-26-85).
* Adam Dunn has at least 37 homers and 92 RBI in 7-straight years. There has only been one longer streak in the annals of the game; Rafael Palmeiro had a stretch of 9-straight years from 1995-2003.
To read the entire article click on the link to National League Breakdown.
Anyone out there notice that Mark Ellis is hitting .400 in September? His season has been a disappointment with only four homers and six steals after back-to-back 10/10 efforts the past two years, but his .281 batting would be his best mark since a career best effort of .316 in 2005.
What the heck is wrong with Jonathan Papelbon? It’s always hard to judge relievers on the fly given how small of a sample size we have to deal with, but his work of late has been awful – and that is with a capital “A.” He has made nine appearances in September during which time he has a 10.61 ERA, a 2.14 WHIP and a .372 BAA. At the same time he has a rather amazing total of 18 punchouts in just 9.1 innings. His late push in the K category has upped his season long K/9 mark to 10.11, his fourth straight year above ten, though his BB/9 mark is a career worst of 3.69 (more than a run above his 2.55 career mark). I tend to think he is just missing his spots right now, though this late season run of putrid production clearly won’t lock him into the 9th inning next season, not when Daniel Bard continues to deal. Bard has more than a K per inning this season (73 in 72.1 IP), owns a 1.87 ERA and a 1.00 WHIP, and has been amazingly effective in his two season big league career (2.59 ERA, 1.11 WHIP, 10.06 K/9, .199 BAA).
Justin Upton’s season is likely over because of that shoulder injury of his. He is visiting Dr. James Andrews for a second opinion today, but with a week left there is zero reason for him to return to game action even if he gets a positive report. That means he will finish the year with a .273 average, 17 homers, 69 RBI, 73 runs and 17 steals in 132 games. Every one of those numbers is smaller than his effort from 2009 (.300-26-86-84-20 in 138 games). In fact, his OPS dropped exactly .100 points down to .799 as he racked up 15 more punchouts (152). Still, he could be undervalued on draft day next season as he clearly has 30 homer, 20 steal potential.
By Ray Flowers
(1) Aroldis Chapman to be called up on Tuesday.
(2) Manny Ramirez officially a White Sox player.
(3) Colby Rasmus (calf) back in the lineup.
(4) Nelson Cruz (hamstring) back from DL.
(5) Freddy Sanchez super hot at dish.
(6) Jose Tabata impressing with Pirates.
(7) Carlos Lee finally hitting his stride.
(8) Daniel Hudson a star for D’backs.
By Ray Flowers
(1) Jake Peavy has an arm issue. Does that mean Daniel Hudson is close to be recalled?
(2) Tim Lincecum takes a liner off his shoulder – appears to be OK.
(3) Carlos Ruiz slumping, missing time with injury for the Phillies.
(4) Alex Rodriguez back from hip injury after missing about a week.
(5) Giants still hoping to get Pablo Sandoval to lose weight.
(6) Conor Jackson to play everyday in LF for the Athletics.
By Ray Flowers
I’ve got a date on Saturday with a pretty lady friend. She is coming over for dinner, so if you have any suggestions on what I should make to impress her – I’ve already thought of SPAM and a vat of wine so you don’t have to suggest those – let me know in the Comments section below.
Wait a second, this is a baseball website, right? Sorry about that.
* Mike Aviles is hitting .341 in 70 at-bats. Yeah, good job Royals for sending him down to the minors so you could give at bats to Chris Getz (.188) and Yuniesky Betancourt (.280, .301 OBP).
* Ryan Dempster will defer money so that the Cubs can try to improve their team. (1) Dempster is set to make $12.5 million this season. He will defer $3 million of that at “little or no interest” according to Ken Rosenthal. (2) Good for him. I mean when you’re making millions of duckets a year, why not defer a few bucks if it helps the team? If you can’t live off $9.5 million a year you are seriously in need of an adjustment – even if you are 50 Cent. If you didn’t notice that the picture above was 50 Cent by the way, you lose your street cred completely.
* Jacoby Ellsbury is back on the DL with continued pain in his side and there seems to be some growing animosity between the two sides. Ellsbury feels that the team completely misdiagnosed his injury which has led to all the problems and whispers that he wasn’t tough enough to play through pain. All I know is that he is killing fantasy owners with a mere nine games played this season. And don’t think we “experts” don’t know how you feel. On one of my teams this year I had Ellsbury, Joe Nathan who didn’t throw one pitch, Lance Berkman who missed weeks with his knee injury, Josh Beckett who has been awful and is now out with a back condition and Brian Roberts who has all of 14 at-bats this season. Yeah, it doesn’t get much worse than that does it?
* Adam Jones had an interesting experience when he was detained for hours when the Orioles went to Canada to face the Blue Jays. Apparently they thought he was a hoodlum. Perhaps they thought he was NFL player Pacman Jones? Newsflash – the easy way to tell if it was Pacman would be to have a hot stewardess walk by and see if he started “making it rain.”
* From the oddity file. Jay Bruce has a .247 career batting average with a homer every 19.2 ABs. The past three weeks he is hitting .328 with one homer in 67 at-bats. Go figure.
* Will Ohman has three saves in a career that spans 7+ big league seasons. He is now the primary closer in Baltimore.
* Grady Sizemore is still seeing specialist about his knee injury. The more doctors he visits the more likely it is that he is hearing information that he doesn’t really like, or worse yet, there is a disagreement amongst doctors as to what the best course of action would be. We should hear over the weekend what the plan is, but I’m starting to give some serious thought to the position that Sizemore may have played his last game in 2010. Who would have thought back in March that Carlos Beltran and Sizemore, combined, wouldn’t suit up for 162 games in 2010? Sure looks like it might happen at this point.
* My Jed Wars team is about ready to get medieval on some fools. I’ve got Derek Holland who was recently recalled, Chris Tillman who is on the verge of his first appearance with the Orioles and Daniel Hudson who should replace a useless Freddy Garcia at some point in the near future in Chicago. If two of those three hit – in addition to Wade Davis who is also on my squad – I’m gonna have a killer AL-only staff. Can you imagine if this was a keeper league?
By Ray Flowers