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June 20, 2011
Who Am I?
A happy belated Fathers’ Day greeting to all of you fathers out there and I hope your day with your families was as enjoyable as mine was. My kids either busted open their piggy banks or figured out my ATM pin code and got me a new Rays jersey, and I took in a game with my own father at Tropicana Field on Friday while lounging in a recliner on Sunday watching James Shields throw yet another complete game before getting on the plane to Milwaukee for some work.
A huge thanks to the subscribers that came out to our ballpark event at Tropicana Field on Saturday, and it was a pleasure meeting all of you. You brought great questions to the event for myself, Tommy Rancel, and Toby David, and front office executives Chaim Bloom and Eric Neander were complimentary of your probing questions for them and wished they could tell you more about when you will be able to put Desmond Jennings in your fantasy lineups.
I have come up with six players this week to try to stump you as we take out the name bias and focus on the statistics. I think you will find the two pitchers most surprising because the skills are definitely there of late, but their overall season results are still clouding recent success a bit.
Player 1: I have cut down on my 2009 strikeout rate by over 30 percent so far in 2011 and taken 15 percent off from last season. I have feasted off left-handed pitching this year with a .290/.356/.581 slash line in 73 plate appearances while hitting just .247/.310/.466 against right-handed pitching. Additionally, I am getting on base with greater frequency as each month passes: my on base percentage was .267 in April, .315 in May, and now .417 in June. Many players will lose power when they cut down on strikeouts, but I am on pace to exceed my power numbers from last season, although my RBI production is taking a hit. Despite hitting out of the fifth spot of the lineup most of the year and a nearly 40 point jump in slugging percentage, I have less than 40 runs driven in this season. Who Am I?
Player 2: I have 65 plate appearances in June and have walked just one time while striking out ten times. Before turning up your nose at that, I also have seven extra base hits, and am hitting .323 with a .565 slugging percentage in June. Over the past 30 days, no everyday player has a lower walk rate than I do, but with five home runs, ten runs scored, and 14 driven in, not many fantasy owners are going to complain. That said, I turn 26 later this season and yet I am on pace to put up pretty much the same type of season I had in 2009 and in 2010. There is something to be said about consistency, but at the same time, some say it would be nice to see some growth so I can become that 20/20 type player people thought I was going to be when I first came up. I have yet to crack 20 home runs and have not yet stolen more than ten bases in a season. Who Am I?
Player 3: Eight players currently have a home run to fly ball rate of at least 30 percent this month, but I have topped 24 home runs just once despite four different seasons of at least 620 plate appearances. Of all of the players with a 20+ HR/FB rate in June, only Chipper Jones, Billy Butler, and I have groundball rates higher than 50 percent. That said, when I hit fly balls, I makes them count. Despite hitting half of my balls in play on the ground, I have 11 extra base hits this month, including five home runs, while putting up a slash line of .339/.412/.695 with eight walks and just eight strikeouts in 68 plate appearances heading into Sunday. That 11 extra base hit total is just one less than my total from my first 199 plate appearances. This current run of production has my name floating in several trade rumors as I am playing in the final year of my contract. Who Am I?
Player 4: I have hit 20 or more home runs in four different major league seasons but currently have just three in 308 plate appearances. A career .300 hitter, I’m hitting .307 this season, but my slugging percentage has fallen from .518 to .444 to its current .428 over the past three seasons. While most of my peripherals have remained constant, my groundball to flyball ratio has seen a dramatic spike, jumping from 1.39 last season to 1.88 this season. My line drive rate is still at my career average of 24 percent, but 50 percent of my balls in play are groundballs, leaving just 27 percent as flies–a rate I haven’t been at since 2007 when I hit just nine home runs. Normally, my home park would be more conducive to home runs, but if I can’t loft the ball, it doesn’t matter where I am playing. Despite the loss of power, the fact that I qualify at three different positions helps ease the pain fantasy owners are suffering due to my lack of power production after back to back seasons of 20 or more home runs. Who Am I?
Player 5: I have six wins, a 7.0 K/9, a 1.39 WHIP, and a 3.70 ERA this season. While those numbers seem rather average, my work over the past month has been anything but. Over the past month, I have the fourth best Fielding Independent Pitching rate in baseball, trailing only Cole Hamels, Clayton Kershaw, and Zack Greinke as I have won three games with a 2.68 ERA and a 1.24 WHIP while striking out 33 and walking just ten in 37 innings of work. Last season, my home run rate was 1.0, but this season I have reduced that to 0.7, thanks in part to a three point jump in my ground ball rate to 51 percent. My team is not doing as well as the fan base would have hoped, but I am pitching some fantastic baseball for fantasy owners who have me active. Who Am I?
Player 6: Run support is a cruel monster to pitchers, and it drives fantasy owners crazy when good pitchers cannot get any wins. This season, I have a 6.1 strikeout rate, a 2.2 walk rate, a 0.6 home run rate, a 1.27 WHIP, and a 3.53 ERA but just three wins. Over the past month, I am just 1-4 despite my strikeout rate jumping up to 7.3, my walk rate falling to 2.0, and my home run rate staying the same thanks to some bad luck stranding runners that saw my ERA spike to 4.50. In that same time, my FIP is 2.72 while I’ve been tied with Dan Haren for the worst run support in my league. My offense scores an average of just 2.2 runs a game when I am on the mound. Fantasy baseball is not fair to everyone, but I’m a good sleeper pick, pitching well despite the wins not being there. Who Am I?