We've played less than three weeks of major league baseball in the 2013 season. Some folks in the fantasy game seem to think we've played 13 weeks. People are panicked over the slow starts of Matt Kemp and Jason Heyward. Others are ready to anoint guys like Jeremy Guthrie and Chris Johnson as superstars in the making. The truth obviously lies somewhere in-between (hopefully that was obvious to you because it certainly isn't for some based upon the interactions I've had with folks). In today's article we'll explore some hot and cold starts and give a few thoughts about the trends we have witnessed to this point of the season. We'll also try and make sense of why the Dodgers continue to hold down one of their best prospects for the junk that they are throwing out there in the infield.
Homer Bailey has never been consistent and he's flashed those traits this season yet again this season as he's tossed two shutout efforts covering 14 innings, sandwiched around a seven run bombing at the hands of the Cardinals. The end result is impressive though as he has 18 Ks, a 3.32 ERA and 1.00 WHIP over 19 innings. If he could just cut down on the beatings we could be looking at, f-i-n-a-l-l-y, the breakout we've been expecting for about three years. It only seems like he has been around forever by the way. Would it surprise you to know that he's only 26 years old? Thought it might.
Felix Doubront is slated to make two starts this week, and the first one went well Tuesday against the Indians (he's scheduled to go Sunday against the Royals). Doubront allowed just two runs in five innings for the win while he struck out seven. He also allowed only four hits, but unfortunately he also issued four free passes to damage the old WHIP a bit. The slightly built lefty certainly has a power arm, he struck out 167 batters in 161 innings last season and already has 13 in 10 frames this year, and as long as he can keep the walks in check he should have plenty of success this year. Even though he had a bit of a rough outing in the walk department Tuesday, his current 3.60 BB/9 mark is nearly have a batter better than his 4.06 career mark. If he can whittle that mark down another quarter of a batter or so then he could be in line for a strong 2013 effort.
Dee Gordon is wallowing at Triple-A. Through 11 games Gordon is hitting .319 with seven RBIs, nine runs scored and eight steals. That means that Gordon has hit .326 with 63 runs scored and 40 steals in 89 games at the Triple-A level. I'll be the first to admit that Gordon doesn't have a great bat, there are certainly holes that can be exploited in his swing, but you have to give him some credit for nearly getting a hit every three at-bats at Triple-A, don't you? Toss in his elite speed that has him on a 70 steal pace for a full season, and it begs the question – why aren't the Dodgers using him in the big leagues? Hanley Ramirez is still out with injury, and I for one hoped that the Dodgers would use Gordon from Opening Day on since they had an open roster spot. Turns out they haven't. Instead they seem content to roll out there Luis Cruz at third, he of the .103 average and one RBI through 12 games, and Justin Sellers at short (he of the .167 average and one RBI through 12 games). Cruz and Sellers are nowhere near the talent that Gordon is. Neither is hitting. The Dodgers are floundering a bit at 7-7 on the season. You know what might change that Dodgers? How about inserting an elite talent that makes things happen. If only you had just such a player in the minors...
Jeremy Guthrie owns a career record of 57-77. He's also posted a league average 4.26 ERA and 1.30 WHIP. A look at his K/9 rate could induce a headache, the number is just 5.5, and his 2.08 K/BB ratio is below league average as well. So how in the world can it be that he is 2-0 with a 3.20 ERA and 0.97 WHIP after three starts this season? Moreover, how is it that the soft tosser, with career numbers that place him as no more than a depth option in a league specific setup, has gone 7-3 with a 3.17 ERA and 1.10 WHP over 110.2 innings with the Royals? That is a great question. The answer is – he can't, yet he somehow has. He's not beating himself issuing less than two walks per nine innings as a Royals' hurler, but he's more than a batter below the league average in his K/9 rate during that time. He's giving up more than eight hits per nine innings. He's giving up a league average 1.1 homers per nine innings. He's Jake Westbrook, Barry Zito and Kyle Lohse all rolled into one. Toss in that he's pitching in the AL and it makes even less sense that he's having this kind of success. You can't turn a blind eye to a player who is performing, but that doesn't mean I'm buying on Guthrie with the expectation that he is somehow going to be able to keep this up.
Dan Haren had another sloppy outing Tuesday not and that has led to a plethora of Haren drops in mixed leagues over the last 12-24 hours. I get it, Haren has a 1-2 record a 8.10 ERA an a 2.03 WHIP. Those are terrible numbers and I'm not going to sit here and try to tell you they aren't. I will say, as I pointed out in his preseason Player Profile that I believe he can be an effective mixed league hurler this season. Amidst the chaos so far, I also see some signs of potential success. Haren has 12 Ks in 13.1 innings. Haren has walked one batter in 13.1 innings. He has a 12.00 K/BB ratio. You cannot fail with a mark that high. It's impossible. Even if that number dropped to 4.03, his career rate, it's still nearly impossible to fail at that level. I also see his laughable 3.38 HR/9 mark and, well, I'm laughing. There are few times in this line of work that I can make a definitive statement with 100 percent certainty. Here it is. That number is coming down. Way down. I'd be shocked if it didn't come down by more than 50 percent. Even if it “only” came down 50 percent that would still be a career worst and light years above his 1.07 career rate (he entered the year with a 10 percent HR/F rate, and this season that mark is 19 percent). His BABIP has never been higher than .311 in a season. It's currently .420. Honestly, I think he's a great buy low option. He may not be much better than league average by the end of the year, but he's certainly go to improve compared to this horrendous start.
Greg Holland struggled a bit and everyone ran to the waiver-wire to add the hardest thrower in baseball last season, Kelvin Herrera. We've got Holland with a 12.00 ERA and six walks allowed in three innings of work which is obviously dreadful. Unfortunately Herrera was lit up the last time he took the hill allowing three homers and four runs while recording a mere two outs. Kelvin's ERA sits at 6.00 and the team is likely at least a bit nervous about using him in the 9th inning. He's still pitched extremely well this season with 11 Ks and just two walks in six innings, and there is no disputing that he has pitched better than Holland, but that rough outing Tuesday has got to have his owners a bit nervous when it looked like he was on the cusp of grabbing the 9th inning role.
Ubaldo Jimenez was my $1 add in the AL LABR draft this season. I thought, why not. Gulp. Maybe I should have thought about how he could kill my ratios. Ubaldo was lit up Tuesday and the result is that through three starts he has a 11.25 ERA, 1.83 WHIP and 10 walks in 12 innings. Dreadful. He will never be the pitcher he once was, but is he really the pitcher we saw go 10-17 with a 5.40 ERA and 1.61 WHIP last season? It's starting to seem like he is. He's lost six mph off his fastball and there is no explanation as to why that happened (and people worry about a guy when he loses 2-3). Still, his stuff is good enough to have success at the big league level as long as he keeps the ball down in the zone. That and of course he has to throw strikes. Maybe he can't throw strikes. If he can't he's not long for the Indians rotation and will certainly be cast adrift even in AL-only leagues.
Will Middlebrooks was drafted in the top-10 at third base by some on the advice of experts and based on the individual fantasy players personal thoughts. I was NOT one of those people as I had Middlebrooks ranked 18th at third base in my rankings. At this point, we might both be right. Will has an impressive four homers in just 13 games. However he's also hitting .200. I said it last year, and I will repeat it again here. Middlebrooks has no shot at hitting .300 with his lack of plate discipline. Will hit .288 last year and some were predicting a run to .300. Given that he walked 13 times in 75 games and had a sickly 0.19 BB/K ratio, I was dubious. Through 12 games this year he has exactly the same BB/K ratio (0.19). You just can't be consistent at the plate doing that. I also stated that his 21.4 percent HR/F ratio last season wasn't repeatable. I stand by that claim even though he's currently operating with a 26.7 percent HR/F ratio. Truth is, when that number comes down we could be looking at a guy who isn't going to be regular for the Red Sox and certainly he could turn into one expensive corner infield option in mixed leagues.
Ray Flowers can be heard daily on Sirius/XM Radio on The Fantasy Drive on Sirius 210 and XM 87, Monday through Friday at 5 PM EDT. For more of Ray's analysis you can check out BaseballGuys.com or the BaseballGuys' Twitter account where he tirelessly answer everyone's questions.
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