It's been two weeks, but everyone loves to panic. It's in our nature. Something goes wrong, and we immediately start looking for a quick fix (think of all the weight loss pills out there when the best course of action would just be to eat well and exercise). Fantasy baseball is no different and the start to the season has led to a whole lot of consternation over names like Tim Lincecum, Francisco Liriano, Johan Santana and Mark Melancon. I'll address all of those arms. I'll then wrap the piece up by focusing on something near and dear to me – numbers. What numbers have stood out to me in the early going? Read on to find out.
Failures: Lefty vs. Righty
Tim Lincecum was thought of, by nearly everyone in the world, as a top-10 fantasy starter this season. Francisco Liriano was nowhere near that high in people's minds, but after a strong spring many were expecting/hoping for a return to form for the often dominant/wild lefty. Well, through six starts everyone is ticked off.
Both hurlers are 0-2.
Both hurlers have an ERA over 10.00 (Lincecum at 10.54, Liriano at 11.91).
Both hurlers have a WHIP over 1.85 (Lincecum at 1.90, Liriano at 2.74).
Both hurlers have a batting average against over .340 (Lincecum at .344, Liriano at .407).
It really can't get much worse than that. Still, and this is about as shocking as anything you've read so far, Lincecum is actually pitch a heck of a lot better despite those putrid numbers.
Lincecum has walked four batters, Liriano nine.
Lincecum has struck out 16 batters, Liriano eight.
That's a pretty significant difference wouldn't you say, when one guy has a 4.00 K/BB ratio and the other 0.89?
Liriano should rebound. Of course, he's been so bad that if he was Josh Collmenter he would rebound from those numbers. At the same time, Liriano has become such a hit or miss option from start to start that it's nearly impossible to predict with any degree of certitude what's going to be the ultimate outcome of his efforts this season. The scariest part for Liriano is that was so impressive just four weeks ago in Spring Training and now he looks totally lost. Seeing a pitcher's fortunes flip-flop that quickly is a scary thought to have to ponder.
Obviously Lincecum is the bigger concern given that he is the better pitcher and the vastly more costly one from draft day. What's wrong with Lincecum? Everyone will tell you that he's lost his velocity and that the sky is falling. Yes his heater is down two mph from last season, but that could easily be something that is an artifact of The Freak not having his mechanics down pat. He could easily bring that number back up. Regardless of the velocity loss, Lincecum has still posted an impressive 10.54 K/9 mark. Doesn't seem like hitters are having that much more success putting the bat on the ball, even with the lost velocity. I also hinted at this above when I spoke of Lincecum's K/BB ratio of 4.00, which by the way would be a career best mark, but he's also not walking many batters. Over his three starts Lincecum is walking 2.63 batters per nine innings, another number that would be a career best. Lincecum has also kept his ground ball rate stable compared to his career mark while seeing his fly ball rate plummet from 34 to 25 percent. Even with the fly ball reduction his HR/F rate has somehow literally doubled from his career rate. That doesn't figure to continue, not after Lincecum has posted a HR/F mark under 10 percent in each of his five seasons (the number is currently 16.7 percent).
Am I a bit nervous with Lincecum? Certainly. Am I starting him in his next outing? Maybe. Am I panicking and trading him for .80 cents on the dollar? Heck no. He'll rebound, figure it out, and once again be a very strong fantasy arm. You watch.
Slow Your Roll
At this point of the season everyone is drawing conclusions off insufficient data. I'll therefore comfortably jump into the mix with Johan Santana.
I've been writing and saying, to everyone who asked, that I would not trust Johan Santana to make 30 starts this year, nor would I be expecting 85 percent of the former Cy Young winning pitcher to be on display this year. Over his first two outings that included one run in 10 innings, I looked like an idiot. After his outing Monday I look like a genius. Johan was only able to garner four outs while he allowed six runs (four earned). In total Johan's numbers through three starts include a 3.97 ERA, 1.50 WHIP and a 2.17 K/BB ratio. I talked to Mets broadcaster Ed Coleman earlier this week, and he said that he would be shocked if Johan made 30 starts this season, and he would be mildly surprised if he even took the hill more than 25 times. Whether Johan makes 15, 25 or 30 starts is only part of the issue with the lefty, but let me say one more thing here before moving on. He had major, and I mean significant, surgery on his shoulder, that caused him to miss the entire 2011 season. Hurlers haven't had similar surgery and returned to their previous levels of greatness. Just hasn't happened. This isn't Tommy John surgery we're talking about. The shoulder is a whole other situation that is much more serious.
My final thought is this. Has anyone bothered to look at the numbers? From 2008-2010 his K/9 rate went down each season. From 2006-2010 his K/BB ratio went down every season. All of that was before he was hurt. I've already said it, and I'll write it here again. If someone believes Johan is “back” trade the Mets hurler to that person immediately.
Worst Pitcher in History?
Nothing like an attention getting title right? I'm not really making the claim that Mark Melancon is the worst pitcher of all-time, he's not, but he may being having the worst start in the history of baseball for a reliever. Through four outings, here are the impossible to believe numbers.
0-2, one blown save, 49.50 ERA, 6.00 WHIP, .667 BAA
Nothing in that line makes sense. None of it. The guy has allowed 10 hits while getting six outs. He's nearly allowed as many homers (five) as he's gotten outs. It's a simply stunning run of futility that has everyone baffled. I don't know what to say other than I'm sorry if you listened to me and took a shot on Melancon when Andrew Bailey went down. To put the final nail in this coffin, if Melancon were to throw a perfect game, let's say he worked a perfect inning in each of his nine outings, his ERA would still be 9.00.
On The Drive, the radio show I host for SiriusXM Fantasy Sports Radio (more on that below in my bio), we have a segment every day where people shoot questions at us and we answer them in like five seconds versus our normal exemplary work that meanders around hitting every aspect of a question. I won't pose questions to myself today and answer them, but I will throw out some bits of information that are of interest.
Jaime Garcia is Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. For his career he has a 2.37 ERA with a 1.16 WHIP at home (35 games) and he's posted a 4.28 ERA and 1.52 WHIP on the road (37 games). Can't explain it, but there it is.
Your major league ERA leader? Try a three way tied between Matt Harrison, Joe Saunders and Jake Westbrook. My thoughts on all three can be read in Quick Starting Pitchers.
Ryan Dempster is tied with Justin Verlander and Jered Weaver for the major league lead in strikeouts. Dempster certainly isn't on par with the other two hurlers but since the start of the 2008 season Dempster is 11th in baseball with 781 Ks, one more than Weaver. Verlander is second with 924, well behind Tim Lincecum (993).
Andre Either leads baseball with 17 RBI, one more than teammate Matt Kemp. Ethier is on pace for 250 RBI, Kemp 236. I bet that the duo won't combine for 236 RBI this season.
Mark Ellis has scored 11 times, the second highest total in the NL to Matt Kemp who has 13. The odd part for Ellis, besides seeing him on the leader board for anything, is that he has those 11 runs even though he's only produced nine hits.
Last night Joel Hanrahan was out of action cause he had a bout with the flu. Apparently he had the rare hamstring flu as it was reported after the game that he missed the contest because of tightness in his hamstring. Considered day-to-day, I hope Hanrahan takes his Theraflu to cure that hammy.
CC Sabathia has a 5.59 ERA in three starts this month. For his career his worst monthly ERA has been April at 4.16 (I'm not counting the three starts he's made in March or the three in October).
Max Scherzer has a pathetic ERA of 10.38, and his WHIP is 1.85. Of course, those numbers are largely influenced by his terrible outing against the Red Sox (seven runs in 2.2 innings). He's never been the most consistent cat in the game, but it should be pointed out that even with his early season struggles he has 14 Ks in just 8.2 innings, and his K/BB ratio is an impressive 4.67.
Troy Tulowitzki is off to an awful start for the Rockies. He's got one hit in his last 14 at-bats to drop his slash line down to .244/.347/.415. He's also picked up just a single homer and six RBI through 11 games. His stellar defense has even faltered as he's already made six errors matching his 2011 total in 129 fewer games. This is as bad as it gets for one of the elite performers in the game.
Adan Dunn leads baseball with 18 Ks, part of the reason he's hitting a mere .179. Amazingly, that's only one more K than Cameron Maybin who is hitting even worse at .170.
Yoenis Cespedes has 16 Ks in just 11 games leading to a strikeout every 2.3 at-bats, a rate that would lead to 217 whiffs over 500 at-bats. He's also gone six games without a homer and he has just two RBI in that time.
Clint Barmes is batting .091 with only three hits in 33 at-bats. Dating back to August 1st of last season, Barmes is batting .211 over 58 games. Yikes.
Ray Flowers can be heard daily on Sirius/XM Radio on The Fantasy Drive on Sirius 210 and XM 87, Monday through Friday, 5-8 PM EDT. Ray's baseball analysis can be found at BaseballGuys.com, and you can follow his musing on Twitter at the BaseballGuys page.
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