Fantasy baseball mailbag: Cabrera breakout likely to fizzle in 2012

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There are only days left in the 2011 fantasy baseball season. With that fact, let's look forward to 2012 with today's mailbag from questions that were submitted at the BaseballGuys' Twitter account.

Is Melky Cabrera a top-20 OF going into 2012 season and is he worthy of a keeper spot in 16-team league (keeping eight)?-- @JakobMD

Coming into the season, Cabrera was one of those guys you weren't overly happy to have as your fourth or fifth outfielder in a 12-team mixed leagues. He wasn't going to kill you in any category, but he also wasn't going to be a big help. In fact, the best 5x5 numbers that he posted from '05-10 would lead you to predict a season of .280-13-73-75-13. In addition, his slash line of .267/.328/.379 from '05-10 was actually worse than the league average of .269/.337/.425. He just wasn't anything other than average.

This year that has changed. Cabrera is two homers away from going 20/20, and he's also hitting a career best .305. Mind you, he'd only hit better than .275 once, and had never hit 15 homers or stolen 15 bases in a season. One of the reasons for that counting category growth is that he's posted a whopping 686 plate appearances, 158 more than he averaged from '05-10. When a guy racks up 700 plate appearances he's going to have solid counting numbers.

The real question I have is has he shown any skills growth? Let's take a look.

This year his line drive rate is 20.5 percent. His career mark is 19.4 percent.

This year his ground ball rate is 47.1 percent. His career mark is 48.7 percent.

This year his fly ball rate is 32.4 percent. His career mark is 31.9 percent.

Nothing has changed there.

This year his walk rate is 4.8 percent. Not only is that well below his career rate of 7.4 percent, it's also a career worst.

This year his K-rate is 13.3 percent. Not only is that worse than his career mark of 12.0, it's also a career worst.

Those are not changes for the good.

This year Cabrera has a BABIP mark of .330. The owner of a career mark of .298, Cabrera's BABIP has been under that .298 mark in each of his previous four seasons.

This year his HR/F ratio is 10.2 percent. That's certainly not a crazy number, but it's 40 percent higher than his 7.0 career rate. This will also mark only the second season of his career with a mark above his 7.0 percent career rate.

So what does all of that mean? It means that the reason that Cabrera has been so impressive this year is a little luck (BABIP, HR/F) and a lot because of all of his plate appearances. Throw in a declining walk rate and a rising K-rate, and the smart money would be on Cabrera failing to duplicate his '11 efforts next season. Given that, I simply cannot suggest to anyone that Cabrera has a legitimate shot at being a top-20 outfielder in '12, but that doesn't mean he shouldn't be kept if 128 players are being protected in your league.

Thanks for the great advice and info. Came in second in my 12-team, head-to-head league. Why do you prefer roto over H2H?-- @samuelrsantana

Let me count the ways.

(1) Baseball is a marathon. H2H turns that marathon into a sprint. If you're looking for the fantasy game to somewhat approximate the on-field product, then the fantasy game should operate as a mirror image of that actual game. That means you should play a season of 162 games played, not some artificially contrived session of weekly match-ups. Let me give you a concrete example of why.

(2) We all know that Albert Pujols will hit .300-30-100 (he's on the cusp of doing it for the 11th straight season to start his career). However, we really have no idea when he will go deep, when he will produce hits, and when he will knock runners in. If you're playing in a H2H match-up what happens if Pujols hits .450 with three homers and 10 RBI? You'll likely win that week. What happens, though, if he hits .150 with no homers and no RBI the following week? You would likely lose that week. Still, if Pujols followed this path, alternating greatness with putrid work, he'd end the year batting .300 with something like 39 homers and 130 RBI. That's a phenomenal season, right? However, in H2H he'd be a killer to your club in those 13 weeks that he disappeared. Baseball is about consistency and working through the grind as much as anything. When you play H2H you remove that aspect of the game completely.

(3) Would you ever draft Gavin Floyd over Dan Haren? That's like saying you would prefer to cuddle up with Cate Blanchett over Brooklyn Decker? However, there are scenarios where you would end up starting Floyd over Haren simply because you're looking at one-week segments. What if Haren was facing the Yankees and Floyd was pitching in Seattle and Oakland; would you start Floyd because he was a two-start pitcher on the road, where he has success, in two parks that favor hurlers? Even worse, would you start a guy like Rick Porcello or Luke Hochevar over Haren if they had two starts? The answer is you might, and we've all made that decision at one point or another. However, does this make any sense? Of course it doesn't. We're sometimes "forced" to go with an inferior pitcher merely because we need the starts to keep up with our opponent in the H2H format. In this instance we're not rewarding the fantasy owner who rostered the players with the best skill, we're merely rewarding those who were first to the waiver-wire to add a two-start pitcher. There isn't any skill in that.

I'm just going to say it: H2H has infected baseball because of it's proliferation in fantasy football. It's one of the worst trends to hit fantasy baseball -- ever. If you want to go soft and set your lineup once a week, I can live with that. However, if you want to make baseball a one week match-up against an opponent you're bastardizing the game of baseball completely.

There, I said it.

Ray Flowers can be heard daily on Sirius/XM Radio on The Fantasy Drive on Sirius 210 and XM 87. Ray's baseball analysis can be found 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