Fantasy baseball mailbag: Shields' return to form raising red flags

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You asked at the BaseballGuys' Twitter account, so I felt compelled to give a few thoughts.

Heard anything from scouts/injury experts regarding James Shields getting torched?-- @rlawealth

Sample size, people.

Last time out Shields was blasted by the A's for 12 hits and 10 runs, causing his ERA to rise a half a run. Two starts before that Shields allowed six runs to the Red Sox over six innings of work. So Shields must be injured or simply out of gas, right? I don't think that is the only logical position to take here. Despite the two beatings he has taken of late, consider the following.

(1) Shields has an ERA of 3.03. His career mark is 4.08 and he has never posted a mark under 3.56.

(2) Shields has a 1.07 WHIP. His career mark is 1.25 and he has never posted a mark under 1.11.

(3) Shields has an 8.59 K/9 rate. His career mark is 7.55 and he's never posted a mark above 8.28.

Could it just be that a regression to the mean is under way here? Even after getting bombed twice of late, he's still on pace to set career bests in numerous categories. Not just that, he's right in line with career norms in a handful of other categories.

2011: 1.21 GB/FB, 18.3 percent LD-rate, 10.9 HR/FCareer: 1.15 GB/FB, 18.9 percent LD-rate, 11.6 HR/F

Is Shields hurt? That's possible, though I've seen nothing to suggest it. Is he wearing down? That seems unlikely given that he has thrown at least 200 innings each of the past four years. My bet is that sooner or later numbers tend to even out, and it just seems like that might be happening with Shields.

Drop Anibal Sanchez for Derrek Lee? I'm 40-plus in IP.-- @SpecialFNK

Sanchez has been strong this year. His 3.74 ERA matches his career mark, while he's knocked off a tenth of a point in the WHIP category (1.26). More impressive, he's jacked up his K-rate two batters to an impressive 9.37 per nine while lowering his BB-rate by a full batter from 3.63 in his career to 2.62 this season. He's pitched better than anyone could have expected. However, he has only six wins this year. He's also allowed four earned in his last two starts and four times in five he has allowed four or more. He's also failed to last more than five innings in three of his last six starts. Perhaps the toll of the long season is catching up to him, or maybe things are just leveling out after his tremendous start?

Lee has long been one of the more consistent bats first base, even if he's been an elite performer on a few occasions. Since 2000, in every season with at least 500 plate appearances, Lee has hit 19 homers, drive in 70 runs and scored 70 times. Add in that he has hit at least .286 in five of the past six years, and you have yourself one solid corner infield option in mixed leagues.

This season has been a rough stretch for Lee, though; he's posted a slash line of .249/.304/.423 versus his career levels of .281/.364/.494, but things have turned of late. Not only did he bash two longballs in his first game as a Pirate, Lee has gone deep four times with 10 RBI in six games, and over his last 26 games he has eight homers and 22 RBI. Clearly he is locked in at the moment.

Would I make this move? It all depends on your needs. I have no issue with the move, as the players seem to be headed in different directions, you're pushing your innings pitched limit, and it seems like you could use an offensive boost.

Rick Porcello or Mat Latos rest of this year?-- @BennetTaub

Porcello is winning, and people notice that. Over his last five starts he is 5-0, and not once in that span has he allowed more than three earned runs. Of course, the previous three starts he allowed 18 runs in 11 innings, so it's not like his consistency is his middle name. I also look at his yearly numbers and see a terrible K-rate (5.35 per nine), middling ratios (4.50 ERA and 1.37 WHIP), and think to myself that this guy is a better real world pitcher than fantasy option at this stage of his development.

Latos has slightly better ratios on the year (4.10 ERA, 1.34 WHIP), and his K/9 rate of 8.49 is near elite. Latos has not been as good as Porcello the last month, but the last time he allowed more than four earned runs in a game was April 16, and he's allowed three or fewer earned runs in each of his last six starts and 10 of 12 starts.

I'd go with Latos. He's been more consistent on the year and has a massive advantage in strikeouts. Of course, if you are targeting wins -- more about that below by the way -- I understand the desire to go with Porcello who has as many victories in his last five outings as Latos has all season with the Padres.

Would you drop Bud Norris for Derek Holland? Similar pitcher, worried about Astros.-- @TheJeffShelton

The Astros' offense stinks, and that will certainly make it more difficult on any of their arms to pick up victories. However, as we all know, wins are impossible to predict. I mean, how is it possible that Jake Arrieta (5.05 ERA, 1.46 WHIP) has 10 victories while Josh Beckett (2.17 ERA, 0.92 WHIP) has nine.

Norris has delivered this year with nearly a strikeout per inning (130 in 135 frames), while posting a solid ERA (3.47) and a passable WHIP (1.32). He also doesn't seem to be slowing too much as he has allowed one or zero earned runs in five of his last 10 starts. There is some concern about his innings count, he has never tossed more than 175.2 innings, but his performance on the hill looks solid for now.

Holland is another young, hard throwing young Texas arm. He cannot match the strikeout exploits of Norris -- his K/9 mark is 6.67 -- but he does a solid job of limiting the walks (2.98 per nine, about a half batter better than Norris). Like Norris he is pitching well of late. Moreover, he's been phenomenal over his last five starts. Sure he got lit up for seven runs on July 20, but in the other four outings he hasn't allowed a single earned run as he has tossed three complete game shutouts.

Holland does have better offensive support, and is on an extreme roll right now, so making the move from the righty to the lefty isn't something that I'm going to give the thumbs down to.

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 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