Fantasy Mailbag: Tap Mr. Capps

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Each week I'll answer a handful of the most pertinent questions I've received during the week in my attempt, weak as it might be, to bring insightful fantasy analysis to the fore.

I don't know if I'm sold on David Aardsma holding on to ninth inning duties all year in Seattle. I made an offer of Aardsma for a struggling Matt Capps. Is this a good idea or a terrible one?--Brian, Oregon

You aren't the only one who is concerned about Aardsma. The good news is that the clubs seemingly schizophrenic approach to Brandon Morrow has him back in a starters roll for the moment removing Aardsma's main competition for ninth inning duties. Secondarily, the Mariners don't really have another option that appears suited to fill the role so Aardsma's job security is pretty solid right now. Still, the man is walking 5.74 batters per nine innings which, amazingly, is only a hair above his career 5.63 mark. Therefore, even given his impressive 10.34 K/9 mark, his K/BB rate is still below the major league average at 1.80. In the understatement of the year, that isn't good. In fact, only one pitcher, George Sherrill, posted at least 15 saves last season with a walk rate of at 5.50 per nine or worse last season, so recent history isn't on Aardsma's side if he continues to operate at this level of wildness. Secondly, despite allowing a 21.1 line drive rate Aardsma's BABIP mark is just .245 which also happens to be .070 points below his career rate. Look for that number to rise and when it does, along with his rather amazing 87.4 percent left on base rate plummeting (career 73.6 percent), that ERA of his will certainly climb.

As for Capps, his ratios are artificially high (4.98 ERA, 1.62 WHIP) do to some ineffectiveness as well as injury. The good new is that he is over the injury concerns and he has converted 10-straight save chances. His trademark control has also returned as he has walked only two batters in his last 10 appearances, a sure sign he is locked in. After all the man owns a 1.62 BB/9 mark in his career, so his 4.15 current rate figures to fall precipitously moving forward (his current rate is still vastly superior to the level that Aardsma is currently operating at).

Capps doesn't remotely posses the K-potential of Aardsma with a 6.63 K/9 mark in his career, but with the return of his control, and his history of success in the closers' role, he would seem to me to be a much safer option to turn to in the ninth inning than the man from the Pacific Northwest.

I've noticed that Troy Tulowitzki is finally swinging the bat better so I pitched the follow offer to an owner -- John Lannan and Orlando Cabrera for Tulowitzki. You like that offer or will a Tulowitzki turnaround really not happen?--Jason, Raleigh, N.C.

The good -- Troy Tulowitzki has four home runs, eight RBI and nine runs scored the past 10 games. The bad -- just about everything else this season. Tulowitzki is hitting just .243 this year, and in fact if we go back to the start of last season, a span of 579 ABs, Tulo has hit .255 with 17 home runs and 71 RBI, numbers that pale in comparison to his 2007 effort (.291-24-99 in 609 ABs). A legitimate question can therefore be raised if Tulo had his career season in his rookie year? The Rockies shortstop is taking more walks than every before this season, though unfortunately he also striking out a fair bit. Still, the resulting 0.69 BB/K mark is well above his 0.53 career mark, so he has shows some overall growth in controlling the strike zone. The main difference in his performance this year has really been his ability to square up the ball given that his LD-rate is just 15.3 percent, this after three years above 20 percent. Obviously, when he starts to hit more line drives his BABIP should rise closer to his career average of .310 (he is currently at just .270). The recent power spike is nice, but his HR/F rate of 12.2 percent this season isn't outlandish given his 11 percent career mark, so he seems like a good bet to return to the 20-HR level if he remains healthy.

On the other side of this deal we have two options. I wrote in depth about John Lannan earlier this week after his gem against the Yankees, and you can read my detailed report on him in his Impact Report. To sum up that report Lannan is a fine groundball hurler with little strikeout potential and a bit too many free passes permitted to be looked at as a strong option in mixed leagues despite his wonderful 3.38 ERA this season. As for Cabrera, he has been a huge disappointment for the A's hitting just .234 with only two steals in 65 games. After all, this guy has hit at least .281 in each of the past three season and has stolen at least 16 bases each season since 2001. We can state unequivocally that he has been rather unlucky this season given his 19.6 LD-rate that is spot on his career mark yet his BABIP has dipped to .249, well below his career .287 mark. Cabrera is actually controlling the strike zone better than he has in any season since 2002 with his current 0.91 BB/K mark, and with a ground ball to fly ball rate this season (1.19) also unchanged from his career level (1.13), there really isn't a good explanation as to why his batting average is so low this season other than just poor luck.

Given all that, it still seems to me that the better side of this deal is to try and push this deal through to obtain Tulowitzki. He clearly has the most upside of the three options involved, and even though Lannan has been solid and Cabrera should rebound, their upside clearly isn't as high as the shortstop from Colorado.

I've been offered Carlos Beltran and Wandy Rodriguez for Mark Teixeira. Is this trade worth it?--Alex, New York

It's hard to answer this question absolutely without knowing the rosters of the teams involved and who will be called upon to play first base for the club losing Teixeira, but here are some thoughts.

At the start of the season, Teixeira was being taken a good 10-12 selections ahead of Beltran despite the great all-around game that Beltran brings to the table (an average season of .275-29-105-105-21 since joining the Mets in 2005). As we sit here less than a month from the 2009 All-Star game, Beltran is hitting a robust .336 and though he is on pace to pretty much dead on his average production in RBI, runs and steals, he is on pace to hit just 21 long balls. Of course, if he bats well over .300 that would be fine, though it should be pointed out that since coming to the NL Beltran has never even hit .285 in a season. Given that fact, coupled with an out of sight BABIP of .367 (his best number as a Met is a mere .300), you have to be highly dubious that he will continue to hit for such a strong average.

As for Wandy, his overall numbers look terrific for a man who owns a 4.61 ERA in his career. Wandy has a 3.33 ERA, which would be a career best, his K/9 rate is 8.50 (it was 8.58 last season), and his K/BB rate of 2.63 is a decent number despite being slightly off his 2.98 mark of '08. When you add in a 1.35 WHIP, just slightly above the 1.32 mark he has posted the past two years, everything looks fine. Alas, he has been hit harder than a piñata at a kid's seventh birthday party of late. Over his last five appearances he has one "quality start," but the other four outings he has been flat out brutal: 0-3, 25 runs allowed (19 earned) leading to a 6.93 ERA and a 2.19 WHIP. Is he hurt, or is this just a normal regression given his magnificent start? Moreover, do you really want to take the chance of adding him to your squad only to find out he is hurt? It's not like he has been a bastion of health in his career.

As for Tex, he was terrible in April hitting .200 with 10 RBI and magnificent in May hitting .330-13-24. He hasn't been too shabby in June either hitting .291 with a 1.027 OPS. The only man in baseball who has hit at lest .280 with 30 home runs and 105 RBI in each of the past five seasons, Teixeira is one of those hitters who simply improves as the season wears on, and here are the numbers to prove it.

Pre All-Star Break: .278/.368/.523 with one home run per 17.67 ABs

Post All-Star Break: .303/.390/.574 with one home run per 15.02 ABs

Toss in the fact that Mark plays his home games in the bandbox of all yards in New York, and it would certainly appear that he is well on his way to the second 40 homer season of his career.

So do you do this deal? It really depends on your needs. Do you need outfield help, or are you lacking a top option at first base? Beltran is obviously the most dynamic option, and he should be an across the board performer even if that average of his dips moving forward. In total, Wandy has been fine this season, but the massiveness of his recent struggles raise a similarly massive red flag as to whether or not it makes sense to count on him moving into the second half. As for Teixeira, there isn't a more consistent hitter in the game, and the new ball yard, coupled with his rather uncharacteristic hot start paint him as a potential game changer this season.

I'm thinking about the potential of losing players from my AL-only league if they are traded (in my league you lose their production moving forward if they switch leagues). Do you think that I should trade a guy like Brad Penny given that he could be moved to an NL team and that John Smoltz could take his spot in the rotation?--John, Sanford, Fla.

This is one of the issues that comes up every year in league specific scenarios that don't allow players traded to the other league to continue to accrue production for their current fantasy squad. How many AL teams saw their pitching staff fall apart last season when CC Sabathia was traded to the Brewers in the NL? Conversely, how many clubs blew their free agent wads to add Sabathia and were able to add the best pitcher in the NL in the second half (11-2, 1.65 ERA, 1.00 WHIP in 17 starts) to lead them to victory? This is certainly one of the unsolved conundrums in fantasy baseball.

This particular situation is also complicated in that Brad Penny may not only be traded, it appears that he may have to also fight off John Smoltz in the meantime for starts (Smoltz is scheduled to return to the hill for the Red Sox on June 25th). The club has said that they will go with a six man rotation for now, but really, no one expects that to continue deep into summer. Will the Sox trade Penny to open up a slot for Smoltz in a 5-man rotation? Will they hold on to Penny in case Smoltz isn't able to remain healthy and throwing every five days? These are questions that there currently aren't an answer to.

As for his production on the hill, Penny is 6-2 with a 4.94 ERA and a 1.55 WHIP, hardly impressive totals. Throw in a middling K/9 rate of 5.96 and an average BB/9 rate of 3.04 and the result is a league average 1.96 K/BB mark. Penny is also allowing way more fly balls than normal at 42 percent (his career mark is 35 percent), so lucky for him he has undershot his career HR/F mark of nine percent at 7.7. If that number moves upward, and it likely will, all of those extra fly balls he is permitting could certainly lead to more balls leaving the yard to increase his already poor ERA.

The bottom line with Penny is that he isn't much more than a league average starter who has a chance to pile up a decent amount of wins pitching for the Red Sox. However, given the uncertainty with his rotation spot, and for that matter his own health as he was limited to just 19 starts last season, it would seem wise to explore trading Penny at this time in AL-only leagues, especially if you are someone who is slightly risk adverse.