I’ve only said it about 1,629 times, and I’ve continued to write about it recently in Bonds, Ruth and Bautista? Sometimes, things occur that defy explanation. I could sit here and spend the next 13 weeks writing a massive compendium of a work detailing how this doesn’t make sense, or how that can’t possibly continue. More times than not I’m going to be right, but of course no one is 100 percent correct, not me, not historical track records, or even the numbers themselves (hello Jose Bautista).
Still, I remain undaunted.
I’m going to hit on a handful of hurlers that I think are pretty much sure bets to regress as the season moves forward. Before I list the actual hurlers I’d suggest you familiarize yourself with my thought process as to why the soon to be mentioned hurlers will be unable to remain on their current paths to greatness.
The easiest way to understand where I’m coming from is to give Which Pitchers Should I Target? a read. In that piece I lay out the basics which, simply put, say to target pitchers with a K/9 rate of 6.50 and a BB/9 mark of 3.30 or lower. Of course pitchers can have success not hitting both of those levels (let me be clear there are always pitchers who succeed without hitting both those targets), especially those that are ground ball hurlers, but it’s a nice general rule to go by when assembling a fantasy rotation. In addition, keep in mind that starting pitchers only contribute in four of the five traditional categories, so even if the guy has a “good” season, if he only strikes out 120 batters he really doesn’t help your squad that much.
With that, here are a handful of pitchers who it would be wise to deal now if you are in a mixed league before their seasons go from great to merely average (some of the names listed should be obvious, but based on the questions I get every day, it doesn’t seem like everyone is in agreement).
Note: xFIP is a measure that normalizes home run rates and tells you what a pitchers actual ERA should be based upon the factors that are in his control.
Nick Blackburn: 3.20 ERA, 1.31 WHIP, 4.87 K/9, 2.78 BB/9, 3.85 xFIP
Blackburn normally throws strikes, but he simply doesn’t miss any bats. He has offset that issue by inducing a career best 53 percent of batted balls toward the infield grass (career 47 percent). However, he’s giving up more liners than he has the last three years and his walk rate is also a career worst. Get out quick.
Zack Britton: 2.35 ERA, 1.12 WHIP, 4.85 K/9, 2.91 BB/9, 3.80 xFIP
Doing an even better job than Blackburn inducing grounders (56 percent), this rookie has been terrific. Still, there’s little other than his impressive ground ball rate to really like here. Given that fact, and that even in a best case scenario that the team could limit his innings late in the year, it would be wise to see if someone would give you starter #2 value for a guy who really is a #4 at best.
Jair Jurrjens: 1.56 ERA, 1.02 WHIP, 5.15 K/9, 1.40 BB/9, 2.73 xFIP
You know he isn’t Greg Maddux so a regression is coming. The question is – how much? Here is what I see. He’s got the worst K-rate of his career, more than a full batter below his career mark. His walk rate is fantastic, but this is a guy who has for each of the past four years posted a mark of at least 3.14. Is he really going to cut that in half? His HR/9 rate is half of normal. His left on base percentage is 86 percent. For his career it’s 74.4. He does have a strong 1.59 GB/FB ratio, but that doesn’t make up for everything else.
Kyle Lohse: 2.06 ERA, 0.90 WHIP, 4.96 K/9, 1.70 BB/9, 3.61 xFIP
Unlike others on this list, Lohse has an extensive history of a decade of major league work. Beyond the obvious, things like never posting an ERA under 3.78 or a WHIP better than 1.27 in any season, are the following points. His K-rate is the 2nd worst of his 11 year career. He’s BB-rate is a full batter below his career mark. His HR/9 mark is literally a third of normal (0.36 compared to 1.11). His BABIP is .080 points below his career rate. His 80 percent LOB mark is 10 percentage points clear of his career rate. Oh, and his GB/FB ratio of 1.29 is only slightly better than his career 1.13 rate. You’re playing with fire if you continue to handle Lohse.
Charlie Morton: 2.61 ERA, 1.32 WHIP, 4.79 K/9, 4.21 BB/9, 3.89 xFIP
He looks like Roy Halladay with his revamped delivery and he has generated a rather amazing 62.5 percent ground ball rate leading to a stupendous 3.43 GB/FB ratio. I don’t think he can keep up that rate, but even if it falls to 2.43 he should be able to have real world success. Still, he’s just not a solid fantasy option in mixed leagues. He never strikes anyone out, walks more batters than the big league average, and though his line drive rate is the same as always, his BABIP is .262, a mere .047 points lower than normal. Oh, and don’t get me started on his 80 percent LOB mark which is only 15 percentage points better than his career rate.
Josh Tomlin: 2.41 ERA, 1.25 WHIP, 4.53 K/9, 1.51 BB/9, 4.25 xFIP
Unlike others on this list who have had a lot of success because they have kept the ball on the ground, Tomlin has been nothing other than average in that category. In fact, he’s been worse than big league average with a 37 percent ground ball rate leading to a a terrible 0.89 GB/FB mark (the league average is usually about 1.10). So how has he had success? Sheer luck. He rarely misses a bat, and when the ball does hit the wood, he’s been about the luckiest cat on the planet. Though his line drive rate is nearly 22 percent, his BABIP is .175. You remember that the big league averages are 19-20 and .300 right? That means Tomlin is giving up more line drives than average but that he is somehow holding batters to a hit rate that is only 2/3 of normal. There is on way that trend will remain intact the rest of the season.
By Ray Flowers
I’m always getting questions about what to do with certain players who are over/under performing, so today I’ll break it down for you by discussing a handful of the American League players I’m asked about all the time.
* Buy/Sell designations are based on a mixed league with 12 teams.
Brennan Boesch: On April 28th Boesch was hitting .350. Two weeks later he is batting .298. His OPS in that time has dropped from .926 to .779. He’s also hit only one homers in his last 31 games. So are the vagaries of small sample sizes. In his career Boesch has hit .265 with 16 homers and 85 RBI in 585 at-bats, not .300-30-100 like some people seem to think he will do this year. He will not hit .300. He will not hit 30 homers. He will not have 100 RBI. In fact, if Boesch were to match his career .265-16-85 line I’d be pleasantly surprised. He’s murdering lefites with a .387/.459/.548 line in 30 at-bats, but in 90 at-bats against righties is once again looking no different than an average big league hitter (.267/.320/.378).
Zach Britton: It’s getting harder to write off his hot start with each successive successful start. Seven starts into his big league career only once has he allowed more than three earned runs, and the result is an impressive 2.93 ERA. He certainly gets a ton of ground balls, nearly 55 percent of batted balls, but I still worry about his poor K/9 rate of 5.02, and his completely average 3.35 BB/9 mark. Sooner or later you have to think that his 1.50 K/BB ratio will catch up to him, especially when his hit rate goes up (his current BABIP is .236). In addition, his left on base percentage is 81.1 percent, well in excess of the big league average of 70 percent. Toss in the fact that his xFIP (3.97) says his ERA “should” be a full run higher than it current is, and you’d be smart to see what you could get for Britton if you sold him off.
Colby Lewis: On April 5th, when his ERA was 6.95, everyone thought this guy was a one year wonder and waiver-wire fodder. However, over his last three outings, Lewis has 17 Ks and three walks, has gone at least 7.1 innings in each outing, and is sporting a 2.31 ERA in that trio of starts. The strikeout rate still has some room to grow since it’s barely over six, in fact I’d be pretty darn surprised if it didn’t, and once that ridiculous HR/9 mark of 2.38 regresses, and it will, his ERA should stand a solid chance of creeping back below four (it’s currently 4.57). He gives up too many fly balls, not a great match for his ballpark, but we saw last season how he could overcome that foible.
Jed Lowrie: Everyone’s darling after a hot start to the year. He looks to be locked into every day playing time with Marco Scutaro on the shelf, so he is a must start in mixed leagues, right? Well, maybe. Lowrie hasn’t hit a homer since April 20th (19 games) and since April 22nd he has only four RBI in 17 games. He also hasn’t stolen a base all year, and though we all knew his average would fall – he’s still hitting .327 – he has hit only .256 with 26 percent K-rate in the month of May. I’m not here to say he won’t be an effective option, I’m merely saying that expectations for him are completely out of whack. He’s best used as a starter in AL-only leagues or a middle infield option in mixed leagues.
Jorge Posada: He’ll be 40 in August, an age when about 99.7 percent of catchers have retired. All those years behind the plate simply break you down physically, and I think that’s what we are seeing with Posada. Everyone seemed to think that moving to the DH role would suddenly turn back the clock a decade – that was never going to happen. The Yankees have shown a lot of patience with Posada, but sooner or later they are going to have to admit what is becoming obvious – Posada just doesn’t have it anymore. On the plus side you have to think that his average could easily improve by 50 percent, there’s just no way he’ll have a .134 BABIP this year, not with a .315 career mark. Still, there are better options unless you are talking about him being a second catcher in a mixed league.
By Ray Flowers
Here are the answer to some of the quick hitters that I received at the BaseballGuys’ Twitter account.
What are your thoughts on an Aubrey Huff for Kendrys Morales trade?
All preseason I said to be wary of Justin Morneau and Morales, though I don’t think most listened. Morneau has been healthy and on the field which is great news, but he has looked bad at the dish (.258/.303/.355). However, at least he is playing. Morales still is on the sidelines, and the exciting news here is that he will try to run on Tuesday or Wednesday. Think about that. He isn’t running without pain from an injury that occurred last May. I know Morales was really good in 2009, but let’s compare his numbers from that season to what Huff did last year for the Giants.
Morales: .306-34-108-86-3 with a .924 OPS
A. Huff: .290-26-86-100-7 with a .891 OPS
Huff is healthy, off to a a solid start (seven RBI in 10 games), and qualifies at first base and outfield. I see no reason why everyone wouldn’t prefer to roster Huff over the still working his way back into game shape Morales.
What do you think of this trade… I give up Craig Kimbrel and Ryan Howard for Adrian Gonzalez? I’d be left with David Aardsma as my top RP.
I know everyone is ga-ga over A-Gone with his move to the Red Sox, and he has been productive so far hitting .297 with seven RBI in 10 games, but I’m a bit confuse by this proposal. Howard has averaged 46 homers, 136 RBI and 99 runs the past five years. I know he is coming off his worst full season (31 homers, 108 RBI, 87 runs) and that he will almost certainly fail to match Adrian in terms of batting average (more on that below), but do you know how many times A-Gone has been able to match the worst effort of Howard’s career (31-108-87)? Try three times. You can talk to me all you want about Petco Park, but the fact is that Howard’s run production isn’t likely to fall too far behind the Sox new slugger. Oh, and I bet it would shock most of you to learn that there is only a four point advantage for Gonzalez in career batting average over the Phillies’ slugger (.284 to .280).
If that paragraph didn’t convince you to turn down the deal, this one should. You simply cannot leave your bullpen in the hands of only Aardsma – that would be a huge mistake. Aardsma is working his way back from injury and looking good in doing it, but it’s far from certain he will immediately start saving games for the Mariners. Even if we posit that he will, you’ll still need a second closer to have any shot at a respectable finish in the saves category. The Braves have settled on Kimbrel as their man in the 9th, sorry Johnny Venters owners, and through 24.2 big league innings Kimbrel has a K/9 mark of 17.15 – the best mark in the history of baseball (min 20 innings).
Turn this offer down.
Sam Fuld or Angel Pagan?
I can’t believe the love fast starters get (I tried, even though no one seems to be listening, to tell people to slow their roll when it comes to the fast start of Willie Bloomquist in 2011 Player Profile: Willie Bloomquist). Fuld could be an even dicier option than Bloomquist who has at least had some success in the big leagues. Due to the retirement of Manny Ramirez there has been an opening for Fuld to pick up playing time, an that makes him someone of interest in an AL-only league. But in a mixed league there is no chance I would roster him, and there is about as much chance I would do so if I had to drop Pagan as there is of me being asked to marry Jessica Biel to help her to get over the loss of Justin Timberlake. If we remove Fuld’s game on April 7th we are left with an outfielder who has four steals in 105 career games. Toss in a total of one homer and a .263 average and, well, blah. To compare, last season Pagan was a huge disappointment in the second half and he hit .263 with five homers and 18 steals. Remember people, the amount of the 2011 baseball season that is over is akin to one game during the NFL’s 16 game season. I implore you to exercise some patience.
I was offered Josh Beckett for Phil Hughes. Take it?
Why in the world wouldn’t you take the deal? Hughes is struggling with velocity right now, and though the word is that it’s a mechanical thing, tell me you aren’t concerned when you look at his pitching line and see that over his last 18 starts his ERA is 5.76, his hit per nine mark is 9.54, his WHIP is 1.43, his K/9 has dropped to 6.2 and his HR/9 mark is 1.89? Folks, that is awful work, and 18 starts and 20 appearances (100 innings) is a pretty good chunk of work to start drawing some conclusions. Think of it this way. As bad as Beckett was in 2010 his ERA was only 0.02 higher and his WHIP only 0.11 worse. On the flip side Beckett’s K/9 rate was a vast improvement over Hughes’ mark at 8.18 and his HR/9 mark was lower at 1.41. That’s right. As awful as Beckett was last year Hughes has actually been even worse over his last 20 appearances. Toss in the mph/mechanical concern, and the fact that Beckett wasn’t nearly as bad last season as some would lead you to believe (see Is Josh Beckett Finished?) and this is clearly a deal you have to accept.
Zack Britton or Chris Narveson in deep H2H league?
Everyone loves the hot young stud don’t they? Britton is a lefty who has burst on to the scene because of the injury to Brian Matusz. In two starts Britton has allowed just one run going 2-0 with a 0.66 ERA. Britton has been groomed to be a top of the rotation starter, and his greatest asset is his ability to keep the ball on the ground. His control can be hit or miss at times, but for the most part he is a polished youngster who appears ready to take the ball every day. Of course, there are a couple of caveats. (1) He pitches in a park that favors hitters. (2) He pitches in the tough AL East. (3) He could lose his starting rotation spot when Matusz/Justin Duchscherer return to action. (4) He’s yet to throw 160-innings as a professional.
Narveson certainly doesn’t have the pedigree of Britton, an it would be shocking if ended up with the better career. That doesn’t necessarily mean he is the better fantasy option right now however. Over Narveson’s last 16 starts he has posted a strong set of ratios (3.35 ERA, 1.15 WHIP) which have been reflective of his successful work on the hill as Narveson has also struck out an average of 7.7 batters per nine innings leading to a 2.86 K/BB mark. If Britton has a wildly successful rookie season he’s not likely to be able to match the ERA, WHIP or K/9 rate that Narveson has flashed over his last 16 appearances. I’m not saying Narveson is going to be an elite option in 2011, but for my money he’d be the hurler I would roster out of this duo.
Ray Flowers can be heard daily on Sirius/XM Radio on The Fantasy Drive, 5-8 PM Eastern, on Sirius 211 and XM 147.
Johnny Cueto was given a seven game suspension for his Bruce Lee like efforts to impale the Cardinals with his Feet of Fury (Bruce Lee was in a movie entitled Fist of Fury). Oh, and in case you have no idea what I’m talking about, Cueto tried to kick about half of the Cardinals team when the Cards and Reds fought recently. Cueto took his suspension like a man, after acting like a child, and he’ll serve the suspension without an appeal.
Chipper Jones will have knee surgery and if his rehab goes well he plans on trying to play next year. I’ll try to rehab this weekend with copious amounts of alcohol so that I can return to work on Sunday night for the radio show I co-host with Kyle Elfrink from 8-12 PM EST called the Fanball Fantasy Recap. By the way, the show is on XM 147 and Sirius 211, and you can read all about it in I’m a Star.
Joe Mauer leads baseball with a .435 batting average the past 30 days (Chris Johnson leads the NL at .432). As pointed out to me today by Kyle Elfrink, Mauer hasn’t a single homer this season at home in 162 at-bats. Mauer’s also gone deep just seven times on the year. Where are those people that called me an utter buffoon when I said before the season started that there was not a scintilla of a chance that Mauer would go deep 30 times this season after hitting 28 big flies last year? Crickets? If we remove those 28 bombs, here is what his homer totals look like since his rookie season: 9, 13, 7, 9 and 7 this year.
Felix Pie is hitting .340 the past two weeks. At the same time he has a .333 OBP as he hasn’t walked a single time in that time. I don’t know if that’s real progress or not (things like sacrifice bunts and sac hits count as plate appearances and will therefore lower a players OBP even if the players batting average is not moved by the outs generated).
Dan Uggla may have “only” 26 hits in his last 25 games (he’s hitting .283 in that time), but he has made those hits count as he has gone deep 10 times, has knocked in 20 runs and has scored 24 times. It’s been said before but it bears repeating: Uggla is the only second baseman in the history of baseball with 4-straight years of at least 27 homers, 88 RBI and 84 runs scored. All he need is one more homer, 16 more RBI and four more runs scored to run that streak to 5-straight seasons.
Are you following me on Twitter yet at the BaseballGuys’ Twitter Account? If your not, and yes I’m biased, your missing out on some of the best baseball knowledge you could ever hope to find. Here are some of my favorites from today.
Casey McGehee has 73 RBI, one more than Evan Longoria.
Casey McGehee has 18 homers, one more than David Wright.
David Ortiz has seven 25 HR seasons for the Red Sox. 2nd most – tied with J. Rice – behind T. Williams (14).
Orioles considering going to a 6-man rotation to get a look at guys like Tillman and Britton.
Here comes the Panda. Pablo Sandoval in August: .349 with an .899 OPS for the SFGiants.
Sign up if you are on Twitter, you wont be disappointed. If you are you can take it up with management (which just so happens to be me).
By Ray Flowers