July 02, 2010

Each week I'll answer a handful of the most pertinent questions I've received during the week in an attempt to bring insightful fantasy analysis to the fore. Don't hesitate to e-mail any new questions you have and I'll do my best to get to them next week. For more fantasy analysis, check out Fanball.com.

I've had it with Lastings Milledge. Would you dump him to add Andres Torres?-- Josh, Arizona

In 2008, Milledge had 14 bombs and 24 steals for the Nationals and he appeared on the cusp of making some real fantasy hay. Since then only woes have followed. His dedication to the game has been questioned, he was shipped off to the wasteland that is the Pirates outfield, and over his last 132 games he has all of five homers and 11 steals. So what has happened? First off, he has hit far too many balls into the turf considering his nearly 49 percent ground ball rate this season. Obviously, that will make a run a 20 homers difficult. He's also seen his ability to convert fly balls into homer completely vanish. Here are his HR/F marks the past four years: 17.1, 9.6, 5.3 and 1.7. Clearly his current rate is far too low, but until he starts to lift the ball a bit more, his homer total will suffer. Third, he just hasn't run much. In '08 his stolen base opportunity mark was 23.9 percent (the big league average is about 10 percent). Since then that number has receded to 13.6 percent. On top of that his success rate has gone from 72.7 percent in 2008 to 61.1 percent since the start of the '09 season. Clearly, he has taken a step back.

Torres has been a wonder for the Giants. Not only is he getting on base at a solid .371 clip, but he has also swiped 14 bases, making him a wonderful waiver-wire pick up in mixed leagues. However, there are concerns. After a hot start he has really struggled the past three weeks hitting .227 as the strikeouts have piled up (18 in 19 games). For a little guy he also has a terrible 0.91 GB/FB ratio, and when you have 10 homers in 637 career at-bats you should be hitting more balls on the ground than in the air, especially when you play your home games in San Francisco. There's also the concern with Torres about playing time. With Aubrey Huff spending more and more time the outfield, things could get crowed with Pat Burrell, Aaron Rowand and Nate Schierholtz also in the mix, especially with Burrell hitting well (.344 with five homers in 61 at-bats with the Giants). Lastly, it's not like Torres is a spring chicken. Guys who are 32 years old and only have 724 plate appearances in their careers --- there's usually a reason they haven't been given an extended look.

I'd say hold on to Milledge. He still has the talent to be a valuable fantasy weapon, and he doesn't seem to be in danger of losing playing time despite his struggles. I worry a lot that Torres has been overexposed with the extended playing time, and therefore his recent slump isn't surprising. Go with the younger and more talented Milledge and hope his noggin' figures things out.

I need to add some speed to my lineup. Should I target Michael Bourn or Scott Podsednik?-- Leo, Illinois

These are two players with pretty darn similar skill sets, so let's just directly compare them in a handful of categories.

Bourn:25 steals, 78.1 SB percentage, 36.3 tolen base opportunity percentagePods: 22 steals, 71.0 SB percentage, 29.8 stolen base opportunity percentage

It's pretty close between the two speedsters, but Bourn has the across the board advantage.

Bourn:61.5 GB-rate, 2.91 GB/FBPods: 53.1 GB-rate, 1.80 GB/FB

Again, we see Bourn using his skills slightly better. Neither man is going to hit many balls to the fans in the bleachers, so beating the ball into the turf and running like the dickens is clearly the preferred option if they want to produce hits.

Bourn: 9.9 BB-rate, 0.53 K/BBPods: 7.0 BB-rate, 0.49 K/BB

Again, a narrow victory for Bourn

Bourn:.344/.348/.692 Pods: .335/.365/.701

Good luck finding a noticeable difference here.

Bourn:47 runs, 18 RBI, 19 extra base hitsPods: 38 runs, 33 RBI, 12 extra base hits

Another draw?

Bourn:27 years oldPods: 34 years old

I wouldn't be at all surprised if Podsednik produced a better batting and and a few more RBI the rest of the way, but the totality of the data, including where each player is in their respective careers, points the needle toward Bourn in this comparison.

David Price has finally lived up to his advance billing so I'm a bit shy about moving him. I got a strong offer though of Carl Pavano and David Aardsma. I have to take that offer don't I?-- Jim, Tulsa, OK

Price, in only his second season mind you (I'm not counting 14 IP in '08), leads the AL with a 2.44 ERA and 11 victories. However, has he really arrived? Guess that is the first question we need to tackle.

Price has a K-rate of 7.59. His career mark is 7.36.Price has a B/9 mark of 3.43. His career mark is 3.57.Price has a 1.32 GB/FB rate. His career rate is 1.17.Price has a .276 BABIP mark. For his career it's .276.Price has a .225 BAA. For his career it's .231.Price has a 1.21 WHIP. For his career the ratio is 1.27.

I'm not seeing any differences of note here, at least none that could explain an ERA drop of two full runs from last season when it was 4.42.

So why the success this season? First, wins are really unpredictable and they have no bearing on the future value of a pitcher. Certainly you have to pay attention given that they comprise one of the five main pitching categories, but there is simply little evidence to suggest that there is any way you can predict which pitchers will end up racking up the Ws. Second, Price has been a bit lucky. After posting a 68.5 percent left on base rate last season (the league average is about 70 percent), that number is all the way up to 79.8 percent this year. If that number normalizes his ERA will likely rise at least a run (as an example, his Fielding Independent Pitching mark is 3.73). So some regression in his left on base rate, and a few less victories would leave Price as a strong but not dynamic pitching option the rest of the way.

Pavano has been a fantasy find of epic proportions so far. Not only has he stayed healthy but he has nine victories, a 3.33 ERA and a 1.03 WHIP for the Twins. Or course, there is not a single person in the world who predicted a performance like this -- that is unless they were huffing paint. Over the past four seasons he has thrown more than his current total of 105.1 innings only once. Over the past four seasons his ERA hasn't been below 4.77. His career WHIP is 1.33. This season's 5.04 K.9 mark is three quarters of a batter below his career rate (5.82). Pavano is sporting a 74.8 percent left on base mark and only once in the past eight seasons has that rate even been 70 percent. He's also sporting a .256 BABIP mark which is far too low for a guy who owns a .308 career mark. He is a control fiend with a 1.28 BB/9 mark, and though that number was 1.76 last season, it seems a bit too low for a guy who owns a 2.30 career mark. Add that all up and it's clear that he is a big time risk to continue with his current level of production.

Aardsma has 16 saves, so his current owners likely aren't too upset. Still, some of the luck he flashed last year has disappeared, and with that people are learning what the Giants, Cubs, White Sox and Red Sox already knew -- the stuff is great but the results can be erratic. Aardsma has dropped two batters off his K-rate down to 8.14, somewhat diminishing his value. He has curtailed the free passes though two things bother me there. (1) His 3.70 rate is still worse than the league average (3.40). (2) I have a hard time believing he'll hold on to those gains given a 5.02 career mark and never a season with better than last years 4.29 rate. He's also continued to be a fly ball magnet, though the difference is that this season his HR/9 rate is a "normal" 1.11 and not the lucky 0.50 total he posted in '09. Without saves his value would be minimal at best, and with Brandon League pitching pretty well and his name in trade rumors, Aardsma may or may not continue to function as a closer.

Would I do this deal? Even with my concerns about Price's ability to maintain his current level of production, I would pass on this deal. As mentioned, I'm worried about Aardsma holding on to a 9th inning role all season, and with so many disappointments in his career, and some anomalous work this season, I just can't trust that Pavano is for "real."

I'm really up a creek without a paddle due to the injury to Dustin Pedroia. My league doesn't allow trades, so I have to search waivers for options. Which of these three would you take a chance on: Freddy Sanchez, Alberto Callaspo or Cristian Guzman?-- Brian, Bloomington, Minn.

Pedroia is likely to miss about 4-6 weeks with a fractured left foot, and that will leave a rather huge hole in many a fantasy lineup. Let's check out the potential replacements.

Sanchez is hitting a solid .299 for the Giants, though after a hot start he has cooled considerably (.235 over his last 18 games). Given that his career average is .299 you can pretty much expect him to be an asset in that category. However, he has only 10 career steals, has hit just 17 homers in his last 1,163 at-bats and has been held to fewer than 55 RBI in each of the past two seasons. Obviously the upside is minimal with the Giants' second sacker.

Callaspo has eligibility at two spots on the diamond (second and third), and that obviously boosts his value. Like Sanchez, he has little in the way of speed with eight career thefts, and his power isn't overly impressive (he went deep 11 times last year after failing to go yard over his first three seasons totaling 399 at-bats). It may not seem like much, but his total of 18 homers since the start of the 2009 season is only two less than Sanchez's best back-to-back total of 20 (2007-08)m and we still have half a season to go. Like Sanchez, Callaspo figures to play pretty much every day with his lone outstanding feature being his ability to contribute in the batting average category (though he is hitting .277 this season he has hit .295 since the start of the 2008 season).

Guzman has been moved around the field this season with 50 games at second and eight in the outfield, and he came into the year qualifying at shortstop as well. He' batting .295 with little pop -- one homer and 21 RBI in 251 at-bats -- so like the others on this list he really is more of a one trick pony than anything else given that he hasn't stolen more than seven bases in four years. He's also been cold of late, hitting .236 over the last three weeks, and he has been dealing with some neck stiffness of late.

All three options that are available have weaknesses -- hence their availability on waivers. All three also represent rather similar skill sets, non of which is very exciting. Honestly, this decision might just come down to getting lucky and grabbing the guy that gets hot for the next month. I'd take the gamble on that guy being Callaspo. He has the most power of the group, has proven to be a solid batting average contributor, and which fantasy player doesn't want to cheer on the sad-sack Royals?

Ray Flowers is Managing Editor for Fanball.com Owners Edge and RotoTimes.com. His work can be found weekly, exclusively at the home of fantasy baseball: Fanball.com. To e-mail Ray a question for next week's piece, drop him a line at rflowers@fanball.com. You can also follow Ray's thoughts at the Baseball Guys' Twitter page.

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