Fantasy baseball mailbag
I'm not going to suggest a padded cell, but it might be time to lay off the hooch.
Livan is currently third in the NL in ERA (0.87), fourth in WHIP (0.87), and here is the kicker (if the first two didn't do it for you), he is third in the NL in batting average against with .176. If ever there was a time to sell high based on a small sample size, this is it. Oh, let me count the ways -- and yes, I'm actually going to count them.
(1) Over the past four seasons Livan never posted an ERA below 4.93.
And the hits just keep on coming if we focus in on his four starts with the Nationals:
• Livan has a 0.58 HR/9 mark. That mark is 1.03 for his career and has been at least 0.91 in each of the past seven years.
• Livan has a .180 BABIP. Livan owns a .310 career mark and each season since 2005 it has been at least .305.
• Livan has a 99.2 percent left on base rate. That mark hasn't reached his career level of 72.7 percent in three of the past four seasons.
I could go on, but what's the point? Livan will fall, and fall hard, in short order, so make sure you have your ripple on hand if you keep tempting fate by counting on him to lead your staff.
Ah, the seemingly perpetually underachieving Rios, a constant topic of discussion in fantasy leagues. Multi-talented, if you catch him on the right day you would swear he was one of the most gifted players in baseball. However, catch him on the wrong day and you probably wouldn't even remember that he suited up.
So far this season he has been about, well, the normal Rios. His slash line of .271/.329/.500 is similar to his career marks (.281/.330/.445), so he's pretty much on par with what you would expect there. On the plus side he has already swiped six bags, putting him on pace for a career best mark (for what "paces" are worth in April). Rios has swiped 24 and 32 bags the past two season, pretty strong totals for a guy who has also hit at least 15 homers with 71 or more RBI the past four seasons. And that's the deal with Rios. He may not really stand out in any one category, but the totality of his game, even with its warts and the ups and downs, is still pretty darn good. Over the past four years he is one of three men to have socked 15 homes with those 71 RBIs and at least 15 steals (
Though their performances thus far are fairly similar, there is no question in my mind that Rios is the better play. He is more consistent, owns a slightly better skill set, and has proved the past handful of seasons to have a flooring that is higher than that of Young, Here are the worst 5x5 numbers for each the past three years:
A. Rios: .247-15-71-63-17
It's not that the outfielder from Arizona stinks, it's just that he comes with more questions than Rios.
Guthrie is off to a strong start despite being winless in four starts as he has posted a solid 3.46 ERA and a 1.23 WHIP. While that level of performance might hearken back to the Guthrie we witnessed in '07 (3.70 ERA, 1.21 WHIP) and '08 (3.63 ERA, 1.23 WHIP), there are plenty of reasons to believe that simply isn't the case.
First off, Guthrie's K-rate has vanished the past few years. He was never strong in this category anyway, but when a pitcher goes from 6.52 in '06 down to 4.85 this season, concern is warranted (if he maintains that level it would be a fourth straight season of decline). Second, Guthrie has long been a slightly homer prone hurler, allowing an average of 1.27 homers per nine innings. That mark hasn't been below 1.13 the past three seasons, so you have to think that his current mark of 0.69, well you know what I'm saying. You can blame a 5.9 percent HR/F rate, roughly half of his career 10.7 mark (he hasn't posted a mark below 10.5 in each of the past four seasons). About the only thing keeping him afloat right now is that he hasn't been walking anyone. His BB/9 mark has always been strong, no worst than 2.74 the past three years, but somehow he has cut that down to 1.73 per nine innings this season. How do you feel about him cutting a full batter off his career rate (2.76)? I'm nervous, too.
Gardner has been a wonder in the early season. He is tied with
Guthrie is nothing more than a depth arm at best, and in fact there are plenty of reasons to doubt he will be worthy of starting in mixed leagues this season. Gardner may have his limitations, but if he continues to flash "the game" that he has early in the year, there is no doubt that his value will be infinitely greater than that of the hurler from Baltimore, so the other owner who wants more in exchange for Gardner certainly has a strong case.
Let me be clear.
Vazquez may not challenge for the Cy Young award year after year, but you would be hard pressed to find a more consistent hurler. Javier is the only pitcher in baseball who has won at least 10 games, with 150 Ks and 195 innings pitched in each of the past 10 seasons (no one else has a current streak longer than five --
So why the struggles early in the year? It would be easy to say it's the AL or his home park, and while they are certainly factors I believe a few other things are going on here that speak more directly to his struggles.
Always a homer prone hurler, Vazquez is operating at a level that doubles his career HR/9, and that certainly won't continue (his current mark is 2.25 vs. a career 1.17 mark). In addition, he has lost the strike zone. A long time strike thrower, Vazquez currently sports a 4.95 BB/9 rate this year which is more than double his career mark of 2.36. Given that he hasn't walked three batters per nine since the last century (1999), you have to think this number will regress as we move forward. Basically we are talking about a guy who is walking twice as many as normal while allowing twice as many dingers as normal.
One last point: His BABIP is up .033 points, causing his BAA to go up some .053 points to .309. You really think that is going to continue for a guy with this track record? I will say that I'm concerned given that his average fastball speed is down 2.3 mph this season -- the biggest dip in baseball for a starting pitcher -- though I'm willing to chalk that up to something like a mechanical glitch (versus a health issue) since he still has a 8.10 K/9 rate despite all his struggles.
So would I dump Vazquez for any of those other hurlers? No way. Even if he struggles all year, Vazquez is a better K option than Pavano and Millwood, and almost certainly Wolf, as well. Pavano can't stay healthy, Wolf really can't either, and Millwood hasn't been a viable mixed league option in two of the past three seasons and he also pitches for one of the worst teams in baseball. All three of the hurlers you suggest as options in lieu of Vazquez have big time questions surrounding their potential performance, and if you went back a month to an auction draft I would bet you could get all three for the same price it would have cost you to roster Vazquez. Don't let a mere five starts change that opinion -- exercise some patience and you'll likely be rewarded.