FANTASY MAILBAG

Jeremy Guthrie is still on waivers in my league and I was wondering if he is someone I should try to pick up? In order to add him to my squad, I would have to cut Matt Morris or Tim Hudson. -- Kelly, Laguna Beach, Calif.

How is this guy still available in any league? In case you haven't noticed, Guthrie should be in San Francisco for the All-Star Game after a tremendous start (4-1, 2.42 ERA, 56 K, 0.89 WHIP in 81 2/3 innings). Though he has only four wins, that is no reflection on his personal performance. Over his last nine appearances he has allowed three earned runs once, two earned runs twice, one earned run five times and none once. Since he has thrown at least six innings in each outing, that would make nine straight quality starts. Despite the stellar pitching, Guthrie is only 3-0 during those starts, which reflects harshly on the Orioles' lack of offense.

Guthrie, the owner of a 40-36 record with a 4.40 ERA in his minor league career, is a former third-round pick out of Stanford, where he went 26-6 in two seasons. Though he should have a long and productive major league career, Guthrie isn't a power pitcher who impresses with his pure stuff. Guthrie's success has been due to his excellent control, including just 14 walks in 81 2/3 innings (this has helped to produce a tremendous 4.0 K/BB ratio). However, he is averaging only 6.2 K/9IP, so if his control begins to falter, he will see some regression in his numbers. Despite the fact that he won't continue to pitch like Greg Maddux circa 2002, Guthrie has shown no signs of being anything other than a dependable option on the hill week after week.

I would drop Morris (7-4, 3.21 ERA, 48 Ks, 1.28 WHIP) over Hudson (6-5, 3.43 ERA, 58 Ks, 1.15 WHIP) for a couple of reasons. First, Hudson is younger and despite his occasional injuries, he is a better health risk than Morris at this stage of their careers. Second, though his K-rate has plummeted from earlier in his career (6.22 K/9IP for his career, down to just 4.97 this year), Hudson still is likely to put up more punchouts than Morris. Third, the Braves are a much better team right now than the Giants which should, theoretically, give Hudson more chances to rack up W's.

I was lucky enough to pick up Albert Pujols in a trade earlier in the year when he was struggling and now I'm in great shape. However, I have two other 1B that I have been rotating in my lineup in the UT position, but I need to move one for some pitching help. Who should I keep, Jim Thome or Paul Konerko? -- Kevin, Illinois

Pujols has his numbers up to acceptable levels (.306-16-47-42-1) after a horrific start that saw him batting .239 as late as May 14. In June, he has been the Pujols we all know with a .333-7-19-15-1 line in just 18 games. In short, he's back.

As for who to drop, that's a tough call. Konerko (.246-11-35-32) has stroked at least 30 HRs with 100 RBIs in each of the past three season, which makes his struggles this year a bit surprising. However, Konerko has picked things up in June with a .298 average and .976 OPS, possibly signaling an end to his slow start. Also, after racking up 39 K's in his first 48 games, Konerko has drastically reduced his strikeouts this month with only eight through 18 games. All of this leads me to believe that Konerko is in line for an extended hot streak to get his overall numbers up to the level that we are used to seeing. However, I still can't rid myself of the memory of Konerko's horrible 2003 season when he hit just .234 with only 18 HRs and 65 RBIs.

Konerko's teammate, Thome, has performed as he always has while he has been on the field (.289-9-27 with a 1.032 OPS). However, Thome continues to battle injuries which have limited him to just 43 games this season (currently he is out with back spasms). In addition to the health concerns is the fact that Thome had a huge April (.340-5-10) and has since struggled (.254-4-17).

So what to do? Both hitters have been very consistent over the years with Thome gaining the slight edge because he has done it for a longer period (30 HRs, 85 RBIs in each of the last 10 seasons that he has 200 ABs). Moreover, Thome has scored at least 89 runs in each of those 10 seasons whereas Konerko, one of the slowest runners in baseball, has never recorded 100 runs (something Thome has done eight times). I would go with Thome hoping that he can get healthy and continue to produce. If you are a bit more adverse to risk, going with Konerko certainly isn't a terrible idea since he is healthy and has dressed for over 150 games in each of the last three years.

Truth be told, there are quite a few metrics that may not be classified as "new" but might be new to the general reader. The reason for this is basically we only know that which we are exposed to. Each week we will look at one metric or idea that can be added to your "toolbox" of knowledge to help you capture your leagues championship crown through a simple explanation of what it measures.

NORMALIZATION

In baseball, we always make the mistake of comparing one raw number to another with no deference paid to the era in which the number was earned. We say things like "Ichiro Suzuki is a better hitter than Pie Traynor because his career batting average is higher (.332 to .320)." But in truth, can we just look at the raw data and come up with a definitive answer without placing that performance in context? That is where the idea of normalization comes in.

At its most basic level, normalization puts the raw data within a context in which it can be deciphered. Let's use the previous statement as our test case to explain this idea.

Ichiro has a .332 career average, but he plays during an era when offense holds sway over pitching. As a result, his .332 average isn't necessarily as eye-popping as it would first seem when you place that performance in context. During his career, which began in 2001, the AL has hit .269 (pitchers removed). Knowing those two numbers, Ichiro's personal average and the leagues mark during his career, we can find out a batters normalized batting average by comparing Ichiro's personal performance to that of the players around him. Here is the simple equation.

Personal average / League average .332 / .269 = 1.23

Therefore, Ichiro's adjusted batting average, or his normalized mark, would be 1.23. This number can also be read as saying that Ichiro's batting average was 23 percent better than the league average during his career. If Ichiro hit .269, and the league hit .269, his adjusted batting average would be 1.00 (.269/.269). Therefore, 1.00 is the league average, a number above that mark is positive, and a number below that is negative. Make sense? Back to Pie Traynor.

Pie Traynor owns a career batting average of .320, a full .012 points behind Ichiro's career mark. However, when we place Traynor's mark in context by comparing his performance to those of his contemporaries, is Traynor still behind Ichiro?

Traynor hit .320 in a career that spanned the years of 1920-1937. The league, minus the pitchers, hit .290 (an extremely high number). Therefore, Traynor's normalized batting average becomes:

.320 / .290 = 1.10

Traynor's batting average was 10 percent better than his contemporaries, much lower than the mark that Ichiro produced (23 percent better). As a result, we can say that Ichiro was a better hitter, with respect to his contemporaries, than was Traynor (1.23 to 1.10). Let's run one more comparison to see how Ichiro fares.

Is Ichiro a better average hitter than Babe Ruth even though Ruth hit .342 during his career (.010 points above Ichiro)? Ruth hit .342 in a career that spanned the years of 1914-1935. The league, minus the pitchers, hit .283.Therefore, Ruth's normalized batting average becomes:

.342 / .283 = 1.21

Hence, Ruth's adjusted average of 1.21 is actually below the 1.23 mark that Ichiro has produced to this point of his career. So, according to normalized batting average, Ichiro is a better average hitter, when compared to his contemporaries, than was Ruth despite having a raw batting average that is .010 points lower (.332 to .342).

Armed with the idea of normalization, let the debates begin.

June 17, 1962: In a season to forget for the Mets, Marv Thornberry hit a triple in an 8-7 loss. Actually, his hit didn't end up being a triple, it ended up being a single because he actually missed both second AND third base on his way around the bases.

Prior to the 2005 season, Derrick Turnbow had zero ML success, throwing 59 2/3 innings with a WHIP of 1.53. In 2005 he was an All-Star-level performer with 39 saves and a 1.08 WHIP. In the first half of 2006, he continued that strong performance making the All-Star Game with 23 saves. However, in the second half last season, he was even worse than he had been at the start of his career with a 11.29 ERA and 2.29 WHIP in 18 1/3 innings. Continuing his yo-yo act, Turnbow has rebounded this year with a 3.62 ERA, 1.08 WHIP and 40 Ks in 32 1/3 innings.

June 19, 1927: Paul Wagner's 23-game hitting streak ends, a streak which included an NL record 14 straight games with and extra-base hit (he hit .380 with 131 RBI on the season).

Curtis Granderson already has 13 triples, an amazingly high total at this point of the season. To put that number in perspective, Sam Crawford had a record 13 seasons with least 15 triples. In fact, there have been only seven individual seasons of 15 triples since 2000.

SI Apps
We've Got Apps Too
Get expert analysis, unrivaled access, and the award-winning storytelling only SI can provide - from Peter King, Tom Verducci, Lee Jenkins, Seth Davis, and more - delivered straight to you, along with up-to-the-minute news and live scores.