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Fantasy baseball mailbag: Lincecum's slow start speeding up

I'm Ray Flowers, co-host of The Drive on SiriusXM Fantasy Sports Radio. Each week I'll be here answering questions that have been sent to me at the BaseballGuys' Twitter account.

What do you do as a Tim Lincecum owner? I have him on two teams ... extremely frustrated!-- @phillyflash19

This is a results driven game, but I keep preaching patience with Lincecum and hope that people heed my advice. Has Lincecum (2-3, 5.89 ERA, 1.58 WHIP) been a huge disappointment? Yes. At the same time, he is coming around, and there are a myriad of data points that support that contention.

Over his last four starts he has a 3.13 ERA. That's improvement. He's still throwing too many pitches and walking too many batters (5.9 per nine over his last four starts), but hang your hat on these numbers. (1) His current 10.06 K/9 mark is better than his career average (9.87). (2) His 1.75 GB/FB rate would be a career best (career 1.40). (3) His 7.1 percent HR/F ratio is below his career average (7.4 percent). (4) In the first five years of his career his line drive rate was never higher than 20.8 percent. You really think he's going to post a 26.0 percent mark for the season? Moreover, his BABIP is sitting at .349. The guy owns a career mark of .295 and has never surrendered a mark above .310 for a season. Think that is going to continue as well?

Though he allowed four runs in five innings last Thursday night, his fastball was routinely hitting 93 mph while his change-up was darting all over the place. He struck out Matt Kemp three times. Five of the first six outs he recorded were by the strikeout.

Brighter times are ahead for The Freak.

Ervin Santana or Ross Detwiler the rest of the way?-- @Sllab33

Santana always allows homers but he's been beaten around like a pinata at a seven-year-old's birthday party this year. After allowing between 23-27 homers each of the past five years he's already permitted 12 in seven outings. There's no way that continues. Other than the homers, has he actually pitched that badly? If we turn to xFIP to help normalize that home run rate, we find that Santana has a 4.10 ERA, which would better his career xFIP mark of 4.29 and also be the third-best mark of his eight-year career. He's just not pitching as badly as his 1-6 record and 5.09 ERA suggest. In fact, he's working on a stretch of three straight "quality starts" in which he has lasted at least seven innings each outing while posting an ERA of 2.82. For the year his WHIP is 1.30, better than the marks of Jeremy Hellickson (1.31), Dan Haren (1.33) and Jon Lester (1.36).

Detwiler has stepped into the void created when Chien-Ming Wang (hamstring) was injured. On the cusp of returning from that leg injury, the Nats have a decision to make -- do they slot Wang back into the starting rotation as they planned to or send him to the bullpen because Detwiler has been so impressive with his 2.10 ERA and 1.02 WHIP over six starts?

I'd take Santana. Not only does he have the obvious historical advantage over Detwiler, the truth is, even if the fantasy numbers don't show it right now, that Santana is a more highly-skilled pitcher than the younger Nationals arm. Add into the mix the lurking presence of C-M Wang in Washington and that's enough for me to prefer the Angels hurler.

In a 12-team mixed roto keeper league I have the chance to get Mark Reynolds and Jose Tabata for Emilio Bonifacio. Advise please?-- @rogerchoate

Poor Mr. Reynolds. The guy has major holes in his game, and when he's slumping he's about as ugly a batter as you could possibly have in your fantasy lineup. At the same time, the past three years (2009-11) he is Top-3 among third basemen in homers, RBI and runs scored. In that time, an "average" Reynolds season has led to 38 homers, 91 RBI and 87 runs scored. It's a bumpy ride, but he always produces. Hitting .193 with two homers through 25 games is awful, but he has started to produce in May, hitting .350 with two homers, six RBI, a 1.300 OPS and a steal in six games.

Tabata is a bit of an enigma. After a promising start during his rookie season in 2010, his production has tanked. In 26 games this year, Tabata is hitting just .230 with one homer and 10 runs scored in 26 games. But let's take a step back. If we extrapolate Tabata's lifetime production over 219 games into a 150-game season the numbers don't look all that bad: .278-6-42-85-27. Given his age and his pedigree, I'm willing to write off his poor start this season and give him the benefit of the doubt.

Bonifacio is a great fantasy weapon because of his versatility, but as I warned everyone all preseason, expecting him to hit .296 again, as he did last year, was a pretty tall order. Currently batting .238, Bonifacio, in over 1,500 big league at-bats, has hit a mere .266. We all know he has no power and he has just two RBI this season to give him 91 in 443 career games. He'll steal plenty of bases -- he has 15 this year in 31 games -- but you're paying a massive price for those steals given his lack of homers, RBI and batting average. If I'm being totally honest, I'm not certain Bonifacio is actually capable of being an every day player in the big leagues.

This is an easy answer. Add the duo of Reynolds and Tabata and enjoy the bounty.

Trade Derek Jeter for Starlin Castro?-- @jamespmack

I love it when the deals are simple. None of this 4-for-3 junk with draft picks and dollar amounts. Just down and dirty, 1-for-1. Let's compare them straight up.

Jeter: .388-5-15-23-1Castro: .347-1-19-15-11

While Jeter has a substantial advantage in average, homers and runs scored, would it surprise you to learn that, in terms of fantasy value, Castro is the equal of Jeter? How is that possible? It's all about the massive steal advantage that Castro has. So if they are equal right now in terms of their fantasy output, who do I want moving forward? Both players have huge pluses and significant minuses.

Jeter is a .314 career hitter who has failed to bat .300 the past two years. Even if we give him a .314 average this season to match his career rate, that means he will hit in the .290s the rest of the way. Is that possible after he hit .270 and .297 the last two years? Certainly, but it does point out that you should expect the "normal" 38-year-old Jeter the rest of the way and not the out of control one we've seen so far. That includes a major step back in the homer category as it's unlikely he'll hit 30 homers for the first time as he gets within shouting distance of his 40th b-day (Jeter hasn't hit 20 homers since 2004). Jeter has also hit 20 steals only once in his last five years, and his total of one this season in 30 games might signal that even 15 could be pushing it.

Castro looks like a Jeter clone in many respects. All the 22-year-old Castro does is hit, and over his 1,261 big league at-bats we're looking at a .308 hitter. He's yet to show a power stroke with only 14 career homers, but this guy should develop into a 15-20 homer bat. He's not likely to hit .347, but given his age and talent level there is little doubt he will be able to at least match Jeter the rest of the way in batting average.

The real key for Castro is will he continue to run at this rate? A speedster who stole only 10 bases as a rookie, Castro upped that mark to 22 last year. The Cubs have stated that they want to test defenses this year on the base paths, and that has led to Castro's 11 thefts in 31 games, putting him on pace to push 50 this season. Three points. (1) Fifty is a big number. Only one man reached it last season (Michael Bourn). (2) Is it reasonable to expect a guy who stole 32 bases in his first 283 games to push that mark to 50 in 162 contests? (3) Castro has been caught stealing four times this year, not a great rate of success. In his career Castro has stolen 43 bases in 64 attempts, a mere 67 percent success rate. Studies have shown that to be the break even point, and by that I mean that if a runner is under 67 percent with his steal success rate he is actually hindering, versus helping, his team's ability to score runs. In essence, Castro is merely spinning his wheels on the base paths.

I'm often charged with being an ageist since I usually avoid youngsters for more established players. In this case I'm flipping that position on it's ear and suggesting that you make this deal to add the youngster from Chicago.

Ray Flowers can be heard daily on Sirius/XM Radio on The Fantasy Drive on Sirius 210 and XM 87 from 5-8 PM EDT, Monday through Friday. Ray's baseball analysis can be found at BaseballGuys.com and his minute to minute musings can be located at the BaseballGuys' Twitter account.

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