MLB fantasy mailbag: Numbers can be deceiving for Haren, Zimmerman
I'm Ray Flowers, co-host of The Drive on SiriusXM Fantasy Sports Radio. Each week I'll be here answering questions that have been sent to me at the
Haren has lost his last four trips to the hill and he's given up at least three runs in all four of the outings. He's also dealing with a bit of a wonky back. Overall, he's 1-5 with a 4.37 ERA and 1.33 WHIP. Is it time to grab a pitchfork and a flaming torch to storm the castle? Not so fast. Haren is matching his K-rate from last season, though it is in the 7.2s for the second straight year after three-straight seasons over eight. His walk rate would be an eight-year high but we're still talking about a 2.26 per nine mark. His BABIP is slightly elevated (.315) while his LOB percentage is slightly down (71 percent), and his GB/FB ratio of 1.08 is within shouting distance of his 1.19 career mark. He hasn't pitched anywhere near as poorly as it would appear from his record and ERA. There are some signs of erosion, but it's a gradual thing and not something that should add a run to his ERA and cause him to lose 15 games this season.
Zimmerman continues to be bothered by his shoulder. The result is a poor slash line of .248/.341/.350 from a guy who has career mark of .287/.354/.475. That's right; Zimmerman's current SLG is below his career OBP. A look at the rest of his line this year reveals a 0.62 BB/K mark, slightly above his 0.55 career rate, and his BABIP of .300 is just a hot week or two away from being in line with his career mark of .318. What has changed this year is a lack of fly balls, and this is a concern. Since the start of last season Zimmerman has hit more than 50 percent of his batted balls into the ground, and that is going to make big homer totals impossible to attain given his 12.5 percent career HR/F mark. In fact, his 1.50 GB/FB ratio since the start of last season is something you want to see on the back of the baseball card of a 30-steal guy, not a middle of the order thumper.
Both these struggling options should improve as the season progresses. Third base has been hit by some injuries this year, including the one that has felled Zimmerman, so it would be understandable to add the Nationals third sacker with the hope that he is healthy. Given that he may not be, I'm going to side with Haren here but under the proviso that there are certainly setups in which it would make more sense to add Zimmerman (i.e. if your roster was deep in pitching and you needed a boost at the hot corner).
Last year Montero was a Top-5 catcher, hitting .282 with 18 homers, 86 RBI, 65 runs scored, a .351 OBP an a .820 OPS. This season he is hitting .255 with two homers, 21 RBI and 16 runs scored. However, he's still on pace for 75 RBI and 57 runs scored, numbers in line with his production last year. He also is sporting a .350 OBP, which is virtually identical to last season, and his 0.44 BB/K mark is just under the 0.48 mark he had last year. The average should improve; Montero has hit .282 the past three years, and it's unlikely that after four-straight years with a line drive rate of at least 19 percent that he'll continue to struggle along at 16 percent the rest of the way. The power is the big issue here. An 11 percent HR/F guy for his career, that number is just 5.7 percent this year. Of course, if Montero hits three homers in the next week that number will be right back where it should be. Bottom line for me is that Montero should still be a solid No. 1 catcher by the time the season is over if he stays healthy and you remain patient.
Paulino has always had a big arm, one that has produced a total of 349 strikeouts in 373 innings. Unfortunately, injuries have long been a part of his game, as well as the fact that teams haven't been sure if he would be best served as a starter or reliever. The Royals are committed to him as a starter, and in four starts this year he has allowed zero runs three times and blown away hitters with 29 Ks, and just seven walks, in 25.1 innings. Obviously, it would be wise not to read too much into four starts, so let's look a bit further back. In 25 career appearances with the Royals (24 starts), Paulino has a 3.66 ERA, 1.33 WHIP and 148 Ks in 150 innings. Could I see him pitching at that level this season? He certainly could given his power arm. There is a question about durability, though. Here are his innings pitched totals for his career, starting in 2006: 126.1, 131, 0.2, 132.1, 95.2 and 139.1. Clearly, he is far from certain to be a guy we can bank on taking the ball in September.
McDonald has made nine starts this season and he has yet to allow more than three runs in a start, leading to a 2.51 ERA. He's also been rather stingy with the walks, allowing no more than three in any outing, which has helped him to post a 0.99 WHIP. James has also struck out 58 batters in 57.1 innings. All in all, it appears he is fulfilling the potential that had the Dodgers so excited about him for years. Consistency has always eluded him, which brings up the question of what expectations should be for the rest of the season? Is McDonald going to be able to hold on to his K/9 gain? Is he going to be able to hold on to the reduction he's provided in his walk rate (Currently 2.83 per nine)? Is he going to continue to be so stingy with the home run ball, which seems unlikely given that his 0.31 HR/9 mark is less than half his career 0.88 mark? Is he going to continue to have a BABIP of .264, below his .299 career mark, which has enabled him to hold batters to a .198 batting average?
Until Wednesday, Zambrano had been off to a remarkable start to the season. Even with the beating he took at the hands of the Rockies (seven runs in five innings), his numbers are still rather impressive: 2.85 ERA and 1.12 WHIP. Still, his K/BB continues to languish at 1.76, his BABIP is about .045 points low at .233, and for a guy has had a GB/FB ratio under 1.25 in each of the past three seasons it's pretty hard to believe he'll be able to sustain the 1.76 mark he currently owns. Zambrano has a great set of ratios, but they are deceiving. He really hasn't pitched much different from "normal," and there is always the possibility that he could go postal on something at any point, which has to make you nervous.
If I was ranking these guys, I'd go McDonald, Paulino and Zambrano.
Willingham has tanked of late as he's hit .212 in May with only one homer in his last 12 games. However, let's not be too short-sighted here. Willingham was terrific in April, so, in total, he's hitting .283 with eight homers, 27 RBI and 24 runs scored. That puts him on pace to go .281-30-100-90, which would be the best season of his career (his previous bests are .277-29-98-75). Willingham also has ramped up his walk rate, helping lead to a .400 OBP while his .565 SLG is nearly .100 points clear of his career mark (.479). Overall, a terrific start to his Twins career.
I touched on the outlook of Adams earlier this week in the
In a keeper league the pendulum swings toward Adams, but at the same time if you're playing to win this year you have to hold on to Willingham. Not only is he the one locked into a full-time role, he's also the one who has the experience/success at the big league level. Put it this way -- Adams hopes to one day be what Willingham is right now, so if you're goal is to win now keep Willingham.