Fantasy baseball mailbag
Each week I'll answer a handful of the most pertinent questions I've received during the week in an attempt to bring insightful fantasy analysis to the fore. Need your questions answered? Drop me a line. For more fantasy analysis, check out Fanball.com.
It's a tough break to lose Santana, but at least it appears that he avoided a catastrophic injury with his knee, so there is still some hope that he will be able to return to action this season. Luckily you have some options who can step up to fill the void that your lineup now has.
Torrealba's claim to fame might be that he shares an ending to his last name that illicits thoughts of the beautiful
Wieters is the clear choice of these three based on playing time, pedigree and overall talent. That doesn't absolve him from being a massive disappointment this season since his 5x5 line is pretty dreadful: .253-8-34-25-0. At the same time he will play most every game that he is healthy enough to start, and sooner or later that beautiful swing of his just has to start making more solid contact. In fact, it's already started to happen as he is hitting .333 over his last 14 games. On the plus side he has also increased his BB/K mark from 0.33 to 0.55 from last year to this, and his HR/F ratio has gone up a percentage point to 9.4. He's still looking for his groove against lefties, he has a .220.253/.341 line against them in 82 at-bats, but his potential is still awe-inspiring and well worth taking a shot on over the other two catchers that have to share playing time.
Ellsbury will be activated in the next couple of days. Out since May 24 with myriad rib issues, Ellsbury has a lot of work to do with his teammates who felt he abandoned the team during his rehab. Regardless, we haven't seen Ellsbury in so long that some have forgotten that he hit .301 with 94 runs and 70 steals last season. It's unclear just how effective he will be in his return to the lineup, but he certainly has to be added in every league if he hasn't already been. As for the others, here is a quick synopsis of each.
Storen: He's been effective this year with a 2.45 ERA and a 1.21 WHIP. He really needs to improve his K/BB mark of 2.00, but with
Escobar: He has been very effective since he moved to Toronto after floundering all year in Atlanta. Escobar has hit .292 with three homers, nine RBI and 11 runs scored in 16 games. It's not fair to extrapolate those numbers over a whole season, it's such a small sample size, but that's a pace for a season of something like .290-30-90-110. That's pretty good.
Hanrahan: He has allowed only one run over his last 10 appearances and it appears that he is the arm of choice to take over closing duties for the Pirates since
Bruce: In a recent
Lilly: He slumped for a while, causing some concern that his stuff had left him, but over his last four outings it has been vintage Lilly -- and then some: the lefty has a 1.67 ERA, 0.85 WHIP, 9.67 K/9 and a 5.80 K/BB mark in those four starts. Obviously that pace won't continue, but he does have a 3.56 ERA on the year and his 1.09 WHIP is fifth in the NL. He's been really, really good, even if you haven't realized it.
Scherzer: Since he returned from a brief stint in the minors, Scherzer has been dynamic. In 12 starts he has a 2.62 ERA, 1.20 WHIP and 85 Ks in 75.2 innings pitched. Those are ace-like numbers.
Abreu: He has been disappointing with a .254-12-57-56-16 line, but at the same time he is 36-years old and was bound to slow down at some point. Still, do you know how many players have 12 homers, 57 RBI, 56 runs scored and 16 steals this season? The answer is four --
Like I said, you have to pick up Ellsbury for his potential, so why not drop Bruce, an outfielder who seems to be going nowhere at the moment?
Before I analyze this situation I will say this -- Zambrano must be owned in NL-only leagues, period. Now to the regularly scheduled part of our programming.
Big Z has been a disaster this year. He was a starter, then a reliever, then an ass with his teammates. There is no telling when his volcanic personality will erupt, but hopefully his work with counselors will enable him to keep hi head on straight the rest of the way. The trade of
Questions about how deep Zambrano can go in game right now aside, Zambrano has some rather interesting numbers on his ledger. His 8.49 K/9 mark would be the second best mark of his career, so it would seem that his stuff is still intact. However, the oft-wild one also has a 4.32 BB/9 mark, a number that would be a four-year high, so it's not exactly the rosiest of pictures when you compare the two.
Still, I can't help but think that dude has been exceedingly unlucky this season. Whatever your thoughts are on the validity of BABIP studies, you would have to agree with the position that his current number in that category is so far out of the norm that something off is afoot. Zambrano owns a .284 career BABIP mark, and the worst mark of his career is .308. In fact, from 2005-08, his mark was never higher than .277. So what is he doing with a .383 mark right now? That's just absurd. Even if he destroys his career-high here, he still would seem to have a lot of room to show some improvement. This position is also supported by his line drive rate. Currently sitting at 21.9 percent, Zambrano owns a career LD-rate of 18.8 percent, and hasn't posted a mark higher than 18.4 percent since 2005.
Zambrano isn't going to be an All-Star caliber hurler the rest of the way, but he not only has big time NL-only value, a return to the starting rotation could make him mixed league relevant, albeit with a whole lot of associated risk.
Comparing the numbers of each hurler clearly favors the young lefty from Oakland.
Gonzalez: 9-7, 3.69 ERA. 112 KS, 1.34 WHIP
However, it's never that simple, is it?
How about we look at the numbers since the All-Star break.
Gonzalez: 3.33 ERA, 7.67 K/9, 3.83 K/BB, 1.15 WHIP
The ace from Boston has been better since he returned from injury, so if you play the hot hand you'll be leaning toward Beckett.
What about history? Obviously that one is squarely in Beckett's corner -- no explanation is needed here.
Gonzalez has been tremendous this season, giving those in AL-only leagues more production than they could have ever hoped. The biggest key may be the fact that he has dropped his walk rate under four per nine (3.96) after posting a 5.49 mark the first two seasons of his career. He's also posted a mere 0.67 HR/9 mark, this after two years at 1.56 per nine. At the same time his K/BB mark of 1.90 is actually lower than last season (1.95), and it's tough to understand how a guy who has a nearly identical fly ball rate this season (35.2) compared to last year (35.8) has somehow chopped his HR/F rate in half (down from 13.9 to 7.3 percent).
When in doubt, go with the devil you know. In this case that's Beckett, who has been locked in and looked like the Beckett of old since his return from the DL.