Here are some answers to some questions that I recently received at the BaseballGuys' Twitter account.
I'm solid in the power categories but need steals and runs. Should I trade Ryan Howard for Jacoby Ellsbury?-- @mushinske
Clearly you've got a deal here that would meet your needs.
Ellsbury has been his old dynamic force this season as he is finally healthy. He has been a top-10 overall performer, given his 5x5 line (.318-7-33-49-24), which was pretty much the same situation that existed in his last two healthy seasons (his 2011 totals are projections).
2008: .280-9-47-98-502009: .301-8-60-94-702011: .318-17-83-124-60
He won't hit 17 homers this season, not given that his current HR/F ratio is 11.1 percent (the mark was 7.0 and 4.6 percent in '08-09). He's also striking out more than ever before with a 17.0 percent whiff rate (career 13.6 percent) and it's hard to fathom that he will be able to keep up his current LD-rate (25.5 percent) and BABIP (.362). Still, as long as he stays healthy it's not difficult at all to envision him matching his level of performance from '08-09.
Howard is well on his way to another 30-homer, 100-RBI season with 13 bombs and 53 RBI in 65 games. Howard has gone 30-100 each of his five full seasons in the big leagues, so it doesn't take much analysis to suggest another such season appears to be in the cards. On the negative tip, though, Howard has 11 steals in his career and hasn't hit .280 since '06. In the land of titans, that being the first base position, Howard is always a fine option, but his production doesn't stand out if he is hitting 35 homers with 120 RBI versus the level of production he offered from from '06-09 (four-straight years of 45-136).
Given your needs, I give you my blessing to consummate this deal, though I wont be giving you a 20.5 carat ring like Kris Humphries did when he popped the question to Kim Kardashian.
Should I drop Yunel Escobar for J.J. Hardy, who's been heating up lately? -- @mattromeo
Escobar has battled the injury monster a couple of times this year, but he's appeared in 61 of 66 games for the Blue Jays and has re-established himself as a bona fide big league hitter after last year's el floppo (.256-4-35). He's already hit more homers this season (seven) than last, and his total of 24 RBI is just 11 behind his putrid total from last season. Escobar was hitting .300 a few weeks back but he's slumped to .129 in 31 June at-bats. Still, he's third at the position with a .360 OBP and his 38 runs place him sixth. He's on pace (I know how everyone loves "pace" talk) to end the year with a line that looks pretty similar to what he has done in the past.
2008: .288-10-60-71-22009: .299-14-76-89-52011: .277-17-58-93-5
Escobar's currently drawing more walks than ever before (11.4 BB-rate vs. career 9.6 percent), and his line drive rate is a mere 12.8 percent (career 18.1), so it would seem very reasonable for you to expect Escobar to continue along at his current rate of production, especially when he starts lashing a few more line drives.
Hardy hit 50 homers and posted 154 RBI in '07-08 as one of the most powerful shortstops in the game (he was second at the position in homers and third in RBI). However, a variety of injures hit him the past two seasons as he averaged just 108 games player per year. Over those 216 games he hit just 17 homers while knocking in 85 runs. Injuries once again have limited him this season; he's appeared in just 36 games, but the old power stroke is back with six homers and 19 RBI.
I don't question the skills with Hardy. His BB/K rate, line drive rate, HR/F, BABIP --- all of that is pretty standard fair for him when you compare his current numbers to his career rates. He is hitting a few more fly balls and a few less grounders which has helped aid the power output, but the concern over his health is what eats at me.
I'd keep Escobar. I have more faith in his ability to stay on the field than the oft-injured Hardy.
Scott Baker or Jordan Zimmerman going forward?-- @cstarlodi
It seems like everyone all of a sudden has come to the conclusion that these two guys are both pretty good hurlers. In March when I released my Top-100 Starting Pitchers piece, I had Baker at 53 and Zimmerman at 54. It may not seem like much now, but back then I got a lot of push back on those rankings. Obviously, I'm not surprised that they have had success this season.
I get questions daily about Baker, and I'm not sure why that is. Baker is currently sporting a solid 3.55 ERA and 1.22 WHIP, solid numbers but still not career bests (he had a 3.45 ERA in '08 and in '08-09 his WHIP was 1.18 and 1.19). He is sporting a career best 8.39 K/9 mark, a batter plus over his career rate (7.19), and though he's never posted a mark over eight before, he does have the skills to sustain this level. He is walking more batters than ever before (2.47 per nine), but his K/BB ratio is 3.39, just off his 3.37 career rate, because of the strikeout boost. The rest of his pitching line is pretty standard stuff for him, which means solid production all-around.
Zimmerman started a bit slowly, especially in the strikeout column, but he has turned things around in his last eight outings, striking out 47 in 51.2 innings. With only 11 walks in that time, his K/BB ratio since the start of May is an excellent 4.2. And check out his ratios -- 2.26 ERA an a 0.99 WHIP. That's dealing, folks. His flyball rate is a bit elevated this season, though he's been able to offset that fact with his HR/FB rate of 2.9 percent. He's not likely to keep that up given that his career mark is right on the big league average at 9.5 percent, so that ERA could climb a bit, but this is a stable/strong skill set.
So who would I prefer to have on my roster? I'm going to suggest going with the veteran in Baker. Not only do we have a bit more of a track record with him, we also don't have to worry about his innings pitched total being capped later in the year, a fact that any Zimmerman owner will have to deal with as the Nationals try to limit the workload on their young start who is returning from Tommy John surgery.
Ray Flowers can be heard daily on Sirius/XM Radio on The Fantasy Drive, 5-8 PM Eastern, on Sirius 210 and XM 87. Ray's baseball analysis can be found at BaseballGuys.com and his minute to minute musings can be located at the BaseballGuys' Twitter account. To e-mail Ray a question for next week's piece, drop him a line at email@example.com.