I'm having one of those days. You know, where you wake up feeling a little foggy. I didn't stay out last night boozing, that will be tonight, so I can't really explain my malaise. Therefore, I'm only going to take partial responsibility for what you're about to read. If you find it useful then it was all me. If you find it laughable, well, then my body was possessed by the spirit of some whacky baseball analyst. I'll discuss the value of Jose Bautista, Matt Garza and the recently signed Ryan Madson in my weekly piece.
Is Jose Bautista a Top-5 Selection?
I've been railing against Jose Bautista for a while now. His power is elite, he's first in baseball with 97 homers the last two years (18 more than #2 man Albert Pujols), and his total of 227 RBI is second to the 231 posted by Miguel Cabrera. He's also scored a ton of runs, 214, to place him third overall the past two seasons (Cabrera 222). So what's the problem with thinking that Bautista is worthy of being a top-5 selection this year (you can hear some of my thoughts in this audio link for SiriusXM Fantasy Sports Radio)? I believe Bautista is looked at as an ultra elite player like Albert Pujols or Miguel Cabrera, when in fact, he isn't. My view isn't based on a dislike of the guy, he didn't steal my girlfriend, or because I think he's going to devolve into a failure (he won't). The fact is that I don't believe he excels in enough fantasy categories to be chosen as a top-5 player in 2012.
As I wrote above, Bautista is an elite power bat. He blasts homers, knocks everyone in, and scores a ton of runs. He's also about as good as it gets in the OBP (.412 the last two years) and SLG (.613 the last two years) categories, but of course 5x5 fantasy leagues don't reward those numbers, at least not directly. Therefore the rewards that Bautista brings as a professional hitter aren't fully realized in the fantasy game.
Bautista isn't a speed merchant, he stole nine bases each of the past two years. Most sluggers don't steal bases, so this really isn't a detriment, it's just something that you need to be aware of with the Blue Jays slugger.
The key to Bautista's value is his batting average. If Jose hits .300 then he is a truly elite option. If he hits .260, well then, not so much. Consider the following.
(1) Bautista has hit .254 in his career, one that started in 2004 mind you.
(2) Jose Bautista has ONE season in his career in which he has hit better than .260. To compare, noted batting average contributor Adam Dunn (wink, wink), has hit .260 four times. Even in 2010 during his remarkable effort (54 homers, 124 RBI effort) Bautista hit just .260.
(3) First and second half stat breakdowns are notoriously unscientific. It's totally random to just chose a date to use for analysis, but it's as easy a break point as any to consider. Since 2006, his first effort with 400 at-bats, here are Bautista's first and second half batting averages.
2006: .268 and .207
2007: .257 and .249
2008: .257 and .188
2009: .266 and .212
2010: .237 and .287
2011: .334 and .257
Again, this isn't the most scientific of reviews, but look at the numbers. In twelve half seasons only twice has Jose posted a a batting average over .270. Moreover, that's 11 halves out of 12 in which he failed to hit .300. Or to put it another way, Bautista has been a .300 hitter for about three months of his eight year big league career.
Let me make what sounds like a laughable proposition – is Jose Bautista a better value add in 2012 than Mark Reynolds? Let's be clear here. I'm not saying that Reynolds will be a better performer in 2012, I'm merely asking the question if he will offer a better return on your investment in the coming season than Bautista?
Bautista qualifies at third base an outfield. Reynolds at third base and first base. That adds to both players outlook. Bautista was clearly a better hitter in 2011 (and 2010), but he hit only six more homers and stole only three more bags. He did have a 17 RBI advantage and a 19 run lead, but are those differences erased when you realize that there is massive difference in the ADP marks? According to early returns at MockDraftCentral.com, Reynolds is going off the board with the 126th selection whereas Bautista is the 4th guy being drafted. You might be saying – come on now Ray, of course it's worth taking Bautista 122 picks earlier since he's still a much better value that Reynolds who hit all of .221 last season. But there's the rub with me. Is there really that much of a difference in their batting averages? Logic says yes, and the numbers say yes (at least the last two years), and it's true that Bautista is ascending while Reynolds is devolving in the batting average category (Reynolds has hit less than .225 the past two seasons). But take another look. Are you positive that Bautista is a .300 hitter? Is he even a .280 hitter? If Reynolds hits .238 in 2012, his career average, and if Bautista hits .245 – which happens to be his career batting average if you remove his performance in the first half of 2011 – the gap between the two just might be closer than you thought it was.
Are you starting to understand why I'm concerned with Bautista? I don't doubt that he'll have about as good a shot as anyone to hit 40 homers with 100 RBI and 100 runs scored in 2012, or that he will offer better numbers than Mark Reynolds, but with single digit steals an a batting average likely to be closer to .262 than .302, I'm just not sold that he should be a top-5 selection this season.
Why Are the Cubs Considering Moving Matt Garza?
The obvious answer to this question is that the Cubs are making a baseball decision that is tied closely to money and the future. Would they trade Matt Garza if they were certain to compete in 2012? I don't see how they could. Now, if they can trade him while adding multiple pieces that could help them to contend in a few years, then I get it. It's also about the time that Garza will get really expensive, this is his last season of arbitration eligibility, so financially it might make sense to move him. But in terms of production, there's no way that the Cubs should be disappointed in his performance (for what it's worth, there was as report today that said Theo Epstein, the Cubs' GM, was not attempting to trade Garza).
In terms of his fantasy value, it certainly matters where Garza ultimately calls home because run support and ballpark factors do play a part in a pitchers overall efforts. Still, if you're looking for a consistently impressive arm to add to your fantasy squad after the elite are off the board, you're going to have a hard time finding someone who's a better choice than Garza.
Sometimes I get all fancy with my analysis. I hear from readers that they love when I get analytical up in this piece, but I also hear from some who find all the metrics, abbreviations, and numbers a bit distracting. With Garza we can remove all of that and focus on a few simple measures that you should be very comfortable with to explain how solid Garza has been and should continue to be.
Over the past four seasons he has thrown at least 184.2 innings each year. Only 23 other pitchers have done that.
Garza has posted an ERA under 4.00 each of the past four seasons. Amongst pitchers who have thrown at least 184.2 innings each of the last four years, only eight others have also posted an ERA under 4.00 each season.
Garza has posted a WHIP under 1.30 each of the past four seasons. On the surface that isn't very impressive, especially when you consider that he hasn't ever posted a WHIP below 1.20. However, his consistency in this category is one of the more remarkable runs in the game the past four years – 1.24, 1.26, 1.25 and 1.26.
Garza will give you innings and solid ratios with a consistency that is rarely found. He's also coming off his season best ERA of 3.32 which can be, at least in a small part, tied to his return to an elite level in the strikeout category. In each of the past three seasons Garza has struck out at least 150 batters, but in two of the last three seasons he's had 189 Ks (2009) and 197 (last year). Pretty darn impressive. I should also points out that in three of the past four seasons that Garza has posted a BB/9 mark between 2.77 and 2.88. Again, pretty remarkable with the consistency.
Garza isn't a fantasy ace, but if your looking for a stable, high performing option on the hill, there aren't many safer bets that you could turn to.
Madson Joins the Reds
Ryan Madson wanted a four year deal, an in fact there was a lot of chatter that the Phillies darn near signed him to a 4-year, $44 million deal in November. Alas, it never came to pass, the Phillies ended up signing Jonathan Papelbon, leaving Madson to wander the Earth in search of a way to cure the disease that was turning humanity into vampiric creatures (wait, that's I'am Legend). Don't feel too sorry for Madson even if he lost out on his millions because it's not like he's going to have to go on food stamps after agreeing to what is being reported as a 1-year deal with the Reds for somewhere in the $8.5 to $10 million range (there are some conflicting reports at the moment as the higher figure might include incentives). Regardless of how much dinero Madson will be lining his pockets with, here are two facts. (1) Francisco Cordero won't be closing for the Reds. (2) Ryan Madson is an elite arm.
As far back as May 24th of 2009 in A Change is Needed, I was writing about how I felt Madson was an elite talent that could excel in the 9th inning. However, the Phillies stubbornly refused to allow him to work the 9th (they did give him chances here and there, but it seemed like every time he failed to convert a save chance he would end up being buried behind three other arms in the Phillies' pen). Last season they finally turned to Madson as their closer, only after injuries to Brad Lidge and Jose Contreras mind you, and Madson went on to convert 32 saves proving he had the mettle to handle the pressure of the 9th inning. I see no reason to think that will change in 2012.
Madson, like Garza, has been one of the more consistent pitchers in the game the past three seasons. In truth, he's been an excellent pitcher in his 191 innings out of the pen. Take a look at his numbers the last three years compared to Matt Garza, Matt Cain and Josh Beckett from 2011.
Madson: 15-9, 2.78 ERA, 204 Ks, 1.15 WHIP in 191 IP
Garza: 10-10, 3.32 ERA, 197 Ks, 1.26 WHIP in 198 IP
Cain: 12-11, 2.88 ERA, 179 Ks, 1.08 WHIP in 221.2 IP
Beckett: 13-7, 2.89 ERA, 175 Ks, 1.03 WHIP in 193 IP
That's right, Madson has pitched as well as those three starting pitching stars the past three seasons. There's no reason at all that Madson will not be able to repeat his 2011 performance for the Reds in 2012, so you can feel comfortable in rostering him as a borderline elite closer in 2012.
As for Cordero, his options continue to dwindle. It's certainly possible that he'll wind up closing for someone, he does have seven seasons of at least 34 saves and 327 total saves in his career, but there are concerns with his performance which is why he is still looking for work. The most obvious way to expose his declining “stuff” is to look at his K/9 ratio in recent seasons. After reaching a peak in 2007 at 12.22 strikeouts per nine, the number has dipped each subsequent season: 9.98, 7.83, 7.31 and last year's sickly 5.43 mark. He did generate an impressive 50 percent ground ball rate in 2011, a career best, while walking only 2.84 batters per nine (career 4.09), but the numbers suggest he is now a guy who is getting by a bit more on guile than stuff, and that's just not the profile that teams want to see in their closer.
Ray Flowers can be heard daily on SiriusXM Fantasy Sports Radio on Sirius 210 and XM 87. Ray's baseball analysis can be found at BaseballGuys.com and his musings can be located at the Baseball Guys' Twitter Page.
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