Fantasy baseball mailbag
Lilly hasn't been as good as expected this year for the Dodgers. At the same time, he has gone at least six innings in eight of his last nine starts, is sporting a 1.29 WHIP and has a strong 3.42 K/BB ratio. There is growing concern about his velocity, it is down for the fourth straight year, which likely has been the primary culprit for the drastic drop in his strikeout rate, falling to 5.83 per nine this year (he's been at 6.84 or better in each of his 12 seasons). He has induced more grounders this season that at any point since 2005 to help mitigate the loss of punchouts, but his fantasy value currently sits on the precipice of irrelevance in a 12-team league until his punchouts come back. The question is, will they?
Dempster allowed 14 runs in two late April starts, but since then he has been very good. In May Dempster has posted a 3-1 record, a 3.08 ERA, 1.18 WHIP an a 7.82 K/9 mark, totals that line up very well with Ryan's performance from 2008-10: 3.49 ERA, 1.28 WHIP, 8.20 K/9 mark. As expected, his early season home run woes seem to have stabilized as he has allowed just two homers in his last six outings. Add it all up, and despite a 6.00 ERA, Dempster's xFIP says his ERA should be 3.45, a mark that would better his ERA the past two years (it would also be a career best in the xFIP category).
Morse was everyone's darling after a spring that saw him annihilate pitching to the tune of a .364-9-18 line in just 21 games. Morse then started the season on fire. Wait, he actually started as if the fire was put out when the games started to count as he hit .224 with one homer in April. Flash forward a month and it has all changed. Morse finds himself in the daily lineup now that Adam LaRoche is out dealing with shoulder woes. Morse has responded to the playing time by hitting .386 with six homers in May. Morse has hit .289 with 22 homers and 63 RBI over his last 394 at-bats, and there is little reason to think he won't be able to reach those totals this season.
Given Lilly's advancing age and declining fastball velocity, I'd drop the lefty to add Morse and his white hot bat.
We keep waiting for Jimenez to turn things around, but the wait continues to be excruciating. Jimenez is 0-5 with a 5.86 ERA this season, and he's walking 5.33 batters per nine innings, more than a batter worse than his already poor career mark. You cannot have success walking that many guys. We keep hearing that his body is healthy, that his issues stem from a mechanical issue, but a look at the radar gun doesn't lie -- his average fastball velocity is down more than three mph this season from where it was the last two years (96 down to 93 mph). Jimenez is still getting his strikeouts, his 7.99 mark per nine is a mere tenth below his career rate, but clearly something isn't right. The most distressing news, though, might be that this isn't a recent issue, it goes back a long while. Over his last 24 starts Ubaldo has a 4.52 ERA, a 1.38 ERA, a ghastly 4-12 record and a terrible 1.92 K/BB ratio. Those aren't the numbers of an ace, they are numbers that would normally find you residing on the waiver-wire.
The optimist will say that since May 9 Morneau has hit .289 and is finally ready to emerge from his concussion-induced slumber. However, the realist in me can't accept that. Even though he's hit nearly .300 the past three weeks, his OBP in that time is .318 and his SLG a sickly .386. Simply put, he isn't getting on base, and when he does hit the ball the results make him look more like Erick Aybar than an All-Star caliber player. Cut the guy all the slack you want, but Morneau is on pace to hit .242 with six homers, 54 RBI and 38 runs scored. I find it hard to suggest to people that he is even worthy of a roster spot in standard 12 team leagues.
Lohse has been a bone of contention for me. There is no disputing that he has been spectacular this year, going 7-2 with a 2.13 ERA and a sparkling 0.92 WHIP. He's also been amazingly consistent, allowing more than two earned runs just once in his last 10 starts. Still, I have big reservations. In more than a decade of work the guy owns a 4.66 ERA -- more than double his current rate. He's never posted a season ERA better than 3.78, and that was his only year under 4.00). Lohse is also operating at a six-year low in his K/9 rate (5.27), a fact that has only been offset by a career best 1.68 BB/9 mark (more than a batter below his 1.72 career rate). He's also operating at one third of his career HR/9 mark of 1.10 at 0.34. Toss in three other salient factors. (1) His current BABIP is .230. He's never had a mark better than .280 and owns a career rate of .302. (2) His current left-on-base percentage is 79.6 percent. His career rate is 70.1 percent. (3) He's been under 120 innings pitched each of the last two years, and three times in the last five years he's failed to reach 130 innings. I'm not saying it's impossible that Lohse keeps this up, but it certainly seems like he is fighting against some extremely long odds.
Masterson has exceeded all expectations this season with a 3.07 ERA and 1.27 WHIP through 11 starts. Though his K/9 rate is a career low at 6.26, he's also cut his walk rate by more than half a batter from his career rate down to 3.19 per nine. He also continues to be the master of the ground ball with a 56 percent rate, leading to a GB/FB ratio of better than two to one (2.05). A slight regression across the board seems likely, but there is little reason to panic that he will suddenly turn into Luke Hochevar.
If you need pitching depth you can make the deal since I'm just not sold that Morneau will return to his previous glory, though know that you aren't picking up two aces but merely two solid arms.
First, I don't think you can remove the injury risk with Peavy. We're talking about a pitcher who has failed to throw 110 innings the last two years, and one coming back from a shoulder procedure no other pitcher in big league history has. Injuries have been, and will continue to be, a major issue for Peavy; there's simply no way to remove that from the equation.
Second, despite the outwardly positive results (3.24 ERA, 0.88 WHIP), his overall effort simply doesn't match his previous levels. The easiest way to see this is to simply check out his K/9 rate. The owner of an 8.88 career mark, Peavy was at 8.60 or better each year from 2004-09. Last season that mark dipped to 7.82, and so far this year it's caved all the way to 5.76. The only reason no one has noticed is that Peavy has walked one guy in four starts. Obviously that isn't going to continue. He's also cut his career HR/9 mark by two-thirds, and that isn't going to continue, especially in a home park that is home run friendly.
To sum it up, no, Peavy is not back to being an "ace." He's certainly worth taking a risk on because as we've seen when he's healthy he can be exceedingly effective (hello, Erik Bedard), but I just can't trust him given his track record the past few years.