July 24, 2009

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 (my email address is listed at the bottom of the piece if you wish to drop me a line).

Jarrod Washburn has me flummoxed. Do you have any idea how he is doing this or if he will be able to keep it up?-- Tim, Washington

Jarrod Washburn is fourth in the AL in ERA (2.71), and if that isn't enough, he actually leads the AL in WHIP (1.06). You can look it up. Honestly Tim, we often try to seem like we have a handle on everything, and while I like to think that most times that is true, sometimes the honest truth if that guys do things that we couldn't have predicted, and can't explain. This might be just one of those examples where nothing makes sense, yet it simply is. Consider the following.

1. In his first three years in Seattle his ERA was above 4.30 each season. It's 2.71 this year. 2. In his first three years in Seattle his WHIP was 1.39. It's 1.06 this year. 3. In his first three years in Seattle his K/9 rate was 5.12. This year it's 5.57. 4. In his first three years in Seattle his BB/9 was 2.90. This year it's 2.14.

That last comparison shows some improvement, but really, that can't possibly explain the ratios we have seen from him this year, can it? The answer is no.

So what is the reason for the best performance of his career in this his 12th season? Uh...uh...luck? Here are a few points.

1. Washburn's career G/F ratio is 0.83, and it's 0.87 this year. Obviously the types of hits he has allowed is virtually unchanged but he has done a better job in the HR/F category with his 6.8 percent mark (though whether or not he is actually doing a better job is the appropriate way to phrase that point will be have to be a discussion we will have at another time). Considering that his HR/F rate is 8.5 percent in his career and hasn't been below 8 percent since 2002, one has to think a few more balls will leave the yard the rest of the way.

2. Though his LD-rate is 21 percent, one percent greater than his career mark, Washburn is working on a career best BABIP mark of .251. Obviously these two points go together about as well as Tony Romo and blonde country singers (hello Jessica Simpson and Carrie Underwood). Washburn has never posted a BABIP mark below .268 and mind you that is over 11 previous seasons. In addition, that mark has been at least .289 each of the past five seasons. Face it, Washburn has been awfully lucky this season.

3. Washburn owns a left on base percentage of 74 percent in his career (the ML average is about 70 percent). This year that number is up to 79 percent. In the previous six seasons Washburn has produced a number above 74 percent only one time. Again, we are talking about a fairly abnormal rate here.

Can Washburn keep this up? With little across the board growth, and apparently a heaping helping of good luck, the obvious answer is no. However we've been saying that for about 10 starts now and he continues to motor along undaunted by the facts that say he shouldn't be doing what he is doing.

Now that Carlos Guillen is back, should I pick him up off waives?-- Josh, Clifton, Texas

That's a good question. First, the negatives.

1. Guillen has missed over two months with an injured right shoulder.

2. Guillen hit .200 with a .512 OPS in 90 early season at bats and he didn't even hit a single home run.

3. Always an injury risk, in six years in Detroit he has appeared in 115 games in only three seasons.

4. It took him a while, but the shoulder improved to the point where he was able to take the field in the minors, and in his 19 at-bats he produced seven hits (.368). Still, couldn't he have used a bit more work?

Now the positives (why am I using so many lists today?).

1. The club could sorely use his bat in the lineup so they will likely try to find him as much work as his body can handle. How much that will be is a huge concern.

2. He qualifies at 1B and 3B in all leagues, and likely OF in most.

3. When healthy, he has been a heck of a hitter. Per 162 games in his career Guillen has produced an average line of .288-15-81-95 with 10 steals. Of course, expecting Guillen to provide anything remotely along those lines of production the rest of the way is sheer folly -- it was merely an illustrative example of how good things can be when he is "right."

Should you pick up Guillen? Do you have a roster spot you aren't doing anything with? I'm certainly not going to drop anyone who has been productive for Guillen, at this point it just isn't clear how that shoulder of his will respond to every day work. If he isn't more than a 4-5 game a week type of guy I just don't think he merits a look unless you are in an AL-only league. Make him prove it before you go adding him in mixed leagues.

I was offered J.A. Happ for Jeff Niemann. Seems like a fairly lateral move to me. What do you think?-- Matt, Sarasota, Florida

Happ has been a wonder for the Phillies this season with a great pitching line: 7-0, 2.68 ERA and 1.15 WHIP over 94 innings. Moreover he has produced 6-straight "quality starts" including a four game run in July that has produced a 1.93 ERA and a 0.96 WHIP. So what's the downside with this young lefty? First, his K-rate is barely acceptable at 6.22, and when that is combined with an only slightly better than average walk rate (3.16) the resulting 1.97 K/BB rate doesn't excite. In addition, his hit-rate of .242 seems entirely too low given his "stuff" and his 17 percent line drive rate suggests that good luck has played a factor. And the coup de gras -- the man owns a left on base percentage of 87 percent. No starter's lass a whole year with a LOB mark that strong (last years leader was Johan Santana at 82.6 percent). These facts seem to suggest that his ratios could easily climb the rest of the way, perhaps substantially.

Niemann leads the Rays in victories with nine. Did you realize that? Did you also have any idea that he actually leads their starters with a 3.61 ERA? Niemann has won each of his last five decisions while allowing three of fewer earned runs in nine of his last 10 appearances. That's the good. Now comes the concerns.

1. Niemann owns a WHIP of 1.36, barely better than an average AL hurler this season of 1.39.

2. Niemann's K-rate is poor at 5.33, and the resulting 1.55 K/BB rate is simply terrible.

3. His HR/F rate this season is just six percent, well below the rate he flashed in the minors and below the ML average of about 9-10 each season. Niemann is also a fly ball pitcher, his G/F rate this season is 0.95, and eventually when those flyballs start leaving the yard -- well you know what to expect.

Which one would I want on my squad? To be truthful neither one excites me too much at the moment given their obvious deficiencies as well as what appears to be a the forthcoming helping of regression. Still, I just can't see Happ continuing to be this dominate the rest of the way so I would chose Niemann. Why do I feel dirty like I often do right after voting when it dawns on me that I have merely chosen between the lesser of two evils?

What the heck is wrong with B.J. Upton? What happened to his power?-- Clark, Columbus, Ohio

Guess that shoulder injury was more serious than the Rays let on eh? What a shock. Upton has only seven home runs this season, but after hitting just nine last year, he is still on pace to surpass that mark. However, you are likely asking about the power that he flashed last post-season when he went deep seven times in 66 ABs and the power that saw him sock 24 long balls in 2007. Shoulder issues are always a huge concern, and that is obviously playing a part here. However, we should point out the obvious, and that is that Upton is unlikely to produce a 20 percent HR/R rate as he did in '07, and as a result it might be a bit of a challenge for him to return to the 24 HR level if he continues to produce a G/F ratio of 1.39 (his career rate). The good news from this perspective is that his G/F ratio this season is 1.00, the bad news is that his HR/F ratio is just 6.7 percent.

Luckily for Upton owners he has swiped 32 bags on the year while scoring 57 runs, but there is a lot going wrong here besides a lack of long ball pop. In three of the fourth months this season Upton has hit under .220. The owner of a sky high .351 career hit rate, Upton has still posted a strong .320 mark this season, but with all the strikeouts (107) and only seven home runs, that hasn't translated into a strong batting average. Speaking of the whiffs, Upton is striking out nearly 30 percent of the time leaving him with a BB/K mark that is at a three year low of 0.41. As a result of that he has posted a .321 OBP, well off the .380+ pace that he set the past two years.

It hasn't been a completely lost season because of the steals, but there isn't much reason to expect much of a turnaround at the dish this season unless a whole lot of things change for the elder Upton.

I'm concerned about whether or not Kendry Morales can keep that up. I was offered Paul Konerko in a deal, think it's a good deal? Should I accept it?-- Toby, NJ

Let's break down the two bats starting with a direct comparison of their numbers.

Konerko: .295-18-64-43-0 with a .854 OPS in 339 ABs Morales: .290-17-53-45-1 with a .881 OPS in 324 ABs

That is obviously no help at all since their numbers really couldn't be any closer. OK, how about how has the done lately? Here are each man's numbers since the start of June.

Konerko: .280-11-31-20 in 164 ABs Morales: .302 9-23-25 in 149 ABs

Again, pretty close to a wash. How about looking at something other than 5x5 numbers?

Konerko: 15.6 K-rate, 0.49 K/BB, 0.85 G/F, .306 BABIP, 21.2 LD-rate Morales: 19.1 K-rate, 0.47 BB/K, 0.95 G/F, .314 BABIP, 17.2 LD-rate

Yet again we are looking at a whole lot of symmetry.

What about track record? This one obviously favors Konerko being that Morales has all of 701 ABs as a major leaguer. Konerko has gone deep at least 21 times in nine of the past 10 seasons, and during that time he has produced an average season of .280-29-93 with 79 runs. To me that track record of success is the reason I would favor Konerko since so many of their current measure reveal a virtual toss-up between the two first basemen.

You May Like