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April 29, 2011

Fantasy Beat

Give Me Something!

by Jason Collette

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“Give me something! Give me anything!” I am guessing most of you have shouted that phrase at your TV or mobile device while watching one of your players this season. Hanley Ramirez and Carl Crawford were both premiere picks and yet Ben Zobrist did more last night against Twins pitching than those guys have done all season thus far. While that pair, Alex Rios, Vernon Wells, Francisco Liriano, and others are making fantasy owners red hot with rage, some of the strugglers are doing something, anything, to help out in some areas while they continue to struggle in other areas. Here are some of those guys that are producing well despite struggles in other areas.

Chris Young: He has seven home runs this season, tying him for third best in baseball. Unfortunately, Young, coming off back to back double-digit walk rate seasons, has but three walks in 103 plate appearances this season along with 23 strikeouts, giving him an ugly .216 batting average, an even uglier .235 OBP, but a stellar .515 slugging percentage (and .299 ISO).

Even when he is making contact, balls are finding gloves, as he has a .203 BABIP thanks to a 63 percent flyball rate and just a 12 percent line drive rate. It goes without saying the .235 OBP is cutting into his stolen bases as well, as he has but one attempt all season. Despite the fact he is rarely on base, he has the home runs, 16 runs scored, and 19 RBI, so starting him hasn’t been fruitless in standard formats.

Alfonso Soriano: He is simply an older version of Young right now. Soriano is hitting .235, getting on base at just a .258 clip, but is slugging .518 thanks to seven homers. He has scored 12 runs and has driven in 16 runs in 23 games as well.

In 89 plate appearances, Soriano has just three walks against 21 strikeouts, and half of his hits have gone for extra bases. A .224 BABIP is not helping him either, but his 19 percent line drive rate is not causing that problem. His batting average woes are of his own doing thanks to his poor selectivity at the plate. His strikeout rate has been right at 24 percent over the past two seasons, but his eight percent walk rate has been more than halved this season.

Jorge Posada: I would be remiss if I did not mention one of the craziest seasons going on right now. Posada has a slash line of .138/.233/.415 but has six homers, seven runs scored, and 11 RBI. He has walked 10 percent of the time, but has suddenly developed large holes in his swing: he has struck out 31 percent of the time, five percentage points higher than his previous career high (a high that was set each of the last two seasons).

His .077 BABIP is unbelievable until you remember that he has just nine hits on the season, and six of them have gone for home runs (and five of those have come in his cozy home ballpark). He has to make more contact, and if that means working on contact for a bit to sacrifice power, so be it. The batting average will improve but how high it goes depends on how much more contact old man Posada makes.

Martin Prado: Prado is in the top 20 for the league in runs scored with 17 runs despite a sub .300 on base percentage—his .292 OBP is 25 points lower than anyone in front of him. Prado has also driven in 10 runs while hitting a pair of homers, but has just a .245 average this season despite nearly identical walk rates and strikeout rates to last season’s efforts. His batting average is all line drive related as he is at just 14 percent this season after living in the 20-22 percent range over the past three seasons.

Johnny Damon: Damon had 19 RBI heading into yesterday despite a broken bone in his pinky finger and a .288 OBP. He has hit .260 and slugged .442, masking his career low walk rate and career high strikeout rate with production. His four percent walk rate comes on the heels of five straight double-digit walk rate seasons and his 21 percent strikeout rate is the first time he has ever been over 20 percent in a season.

His liner rate is but 13 percent this season and half of his balls in play are on the ground—no doubt that is a by-product of playing through the pinky injury. His 17 percent home run to fly ball rate will likely come down and fantasy owners hope that as it drops his batting average skills return, otherwise this early RBI machine could shut down quickly.

Coco Crisp: He is one of the league leaders in steals with eight despite the fact his on base percentage is but .293 this season. Crisp has a career .331 on base percentage and has been at .344, .336, and .342 over the past three seasons—he, like several of these players, has suddenly forgotten what a walk looks like, as he has just one more walk than I do in the big leagues this season in 92 plate appearances.

Despite the infrequency of his presence on base, he is running when he is there and he has scored 16 runs. The big “if” with him is always health, but if he can get his normal plate patience back, he is on pace for a 40 steal season and could score 80-plus times.

Ian Desmond and Will Venable: Desmond has been on first base 15 times and already has eight stolen bases. The bad news: he has been on base just 26 percent of the time this season. He reached base at a .308 clip last season and his walk rate is actually slightly up from last year but his strikeout rate has declined and his BABIP is 63 points lower than where he was last season as he is showing a bit more power and hitting more fly balls.

Venable is walking more, striking out less, but is on base just 29 percent of the time and is hitting .183 thanks to a BABIP 74 points off his career average. He plays in San Diego so it is not worth looking at his run production, but he does have eight steals already, and he flashes power on occasion despite his home park.

Matt Garza: Just about everyone has talked about him this week and those who own him (raises hand) are enjoying his 41 strikeouts (and just nine walks) in 31 innings this season. What we are not enjoying is the bad Cubs’ defense behind him, his lack of wins, and the 4.11 ERA. Garza’s misfortunes with wins will improve as his .414 BABIP and 60 percent LOB% regress to career norms. His 51 percent groundball rating is just what he needs to succeed in Wrigley Field but it would help if the defense would do their part and the luck dragons would leave him alone.

Scott Baker: He has but one win on the season and has a 1.4 home run rate already, but he also has a sharp 3.24 ERA, a stellar 1.12 WHIP, and has 24 strikeouts in just 25 innings pitched. The Twins offense is having some serious run production issues thanks to most of their regulars missing chunks of time, and now both Joe Mauer and Delmon Young are on the disabled list. The wins may not come, but the strikeouts and the ratios are a pleasant reward for those who targeted him despite his troubles of last season.

Derek Holland: He is torching your ratios with a 5.12 ERA and a 1.52 WHIP, but at least he has already garnered three wins and has 27 strikeouts in just under 32 innings of work. The .354 BABIP should come down in due time and when it does, it will align up with what is otherwise a very good skill set to start the season as his walk rate is low and he has kept balls in the park in Arlington. Texas pitchers tend to struggle with the long ball when the summer heat comes, but the control and dominance from the young lefty thus far is encouraging.

Daniel Hudson: Like Holland, Hudson is doing some major damage to ratios all over this great country of ours right now. 5.64 ERA, 1.38 WHIP, and zero wins in five starts this season. Yet, he has more strikeouts than innings pitched, and nearly three times as many strikeouts as walks as well as just two home runs allowed in 30 innings of work. His career LOB% is 75 percent yet he is stranding just 57 percent of runners, and his 3.08 FIP looks much prettier than that nasty looking ERA. Hudson is an excellent buy low target right now.

Brian Wilson: The most famous beard in baseball has blessed us with seven saves in ten games this season. He has also stuck us with a 7.71 ERA and a 1.61 WHIP as he waits for United Airlines to find his lost bags from Spring Training that contained his control skills. He has seven walks in just over nine innings of work, so he is his own worst enemy right now. This is not a stuff problem as much as him catching up to the lost time from the spring injury.

Jason Collette is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Jason's other articles. You can contact Jason by clicking here

Related Content:  Walk Rate,  Strikeouts,  Bad Season

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