Wednesday, June 21, 2006

MAILBAG, June 21st, 2006




MAILBAG – Week 12
Contributed By: Ray Flowers of www.FantasyBaseball.com


OK, it's official. My first round draft choice was Mark Teixeira and he's stinking up the joint (relatively speaking). What's wrong with him?
-- Jake, Saratoga Springs, NY


Don’t worry Jake, I have received about 20 emails like this one in the past couple of weeks, so let’s address what’s going on with “Tex.”

Yes, Teixeira’s lack of power is disturbing, and no one seems to know why the HRs have suddenly dried up. Tex (.281-6-39-38) currently has a .435 SLG%, well off the .568 mark he posted the past two seasons. Tex also averaged 41 HR the past two seasons and he is currently on pace for only 14 this season, a paltry number that would be just barely more than half his career-worst total of 26 set in his rookie season. Tex is also on pace to drive in just 89 runs after knocking in an average of 128 the last two years. As has been expressed by the many letters I have received, some quite colorful I might add, this type of production from a first-round draft pick can be crippling to a fantasy team.

However, there are a few signs that you should not despair, well, at least not lose hope. Prior to the 2006 season, Tex had 361 K and 184 BB, meaning that he averaged 1.94 K per BB. Despite his struggles this year, Tex has greatly improved that ratio to 1.47 (56 K, 38 BB), so he is making better contact than he has in the past. In addition his batting average of .281 is almost spot on his career mark of .282, so he hasn’t lost anything there as well. Taking this comparison one step further, Tex has a .366 OBP in 2006, so do you want to guess what his career mark is? Try .362. So in the end Tex is making better drawing more walks, striking out fewer times, batting for the same average and getting on base at the same rate he always has which leads me to believe that in time, the HRs will return as well.


I'm in a 12-team h2h league. My pitching staff is very solid: Peavy, Schmidt, C. Zambrano, Contreras, B Myers, Oswalt, Street, Colon & Cliff Lee and I have been offered a trade of David Wright (I have Chipper Jones at 3B). My question is who do I trade for Wright, Contreras or Schmidt?
-- Pete, South Jersey


Pete, I’m gonna go against what the majority of people’s knee jerk reactions would be and say you should trade Jose Contreras despite his amazing start (7-0, 2.96 ERA, 60 K, 1.05 WHIP). Before you call in the men with the straight jacket, here me out.

(1) Contreras is, counting last season’s playoffs, 21-3 in his last 24 decisions. Is anyone really that good?
(2) In 2006 Contreras is averaging 6.35 K per 9 IP. Last season, that number was 6.78.
(3) Prior to 2006, Contreras had a 1.99 K/BB ratio. This season, that number is way up to 2.73, a substantial improvement. Will it continue especially since his K rate is down?
(4) This year his groundball to flyball ratio is 1.31, which is statistically an insignificant improvement over his 1.22 career mark.
(5) His batting average against on balls in play this year .235. Last year it was only slightly worse at .251.

So basically, if you look a little more in depth at the numbers, Contreras is essentially duplicating his level of production last year in numerous areas except for the fact that he is walking way fewer hitters (2.33 per 9 IP this year, 3.81 per 9 previously) while also striking our less. Does that sound like a recipe for his current level of domination? It sure doesn’t to me, especially when you add in one last number, 34, the “reported” age of Cuban defector Contreras. Even if it is his real age, 34 is pretty late in ones career to all of sudden find a new level of control while losing ones ability to dominate hitters with the strikeout. Plus, the law of averages say he wont go 16-0, which is his current pace, so I would trade him in a second to pick up David Wright (.330-15-55-45-10), the best all-around 3B in the fantasy game as of today.


Ray, would do you think of this trade of Chris Young for Brian Roberts? Our league counts K/9 and total Ks so I think Young is valuable but is he pitching over his head? Can Roberts stay healthy and keep swiping all those bags?
-- Andrew, Dallas, Texas


Since I don’t know the makeup of your team, I will just have to deal with these two players as if they were in their own universe with no other factors influencing our decision. Chris Young (6-3, 3.27 ERA, 75 K, 1.10 WHIP) has been a revelation for the Padres, but his success was not unexpected. Young moved from the AL to the NL, a big help to all pitchers of the world, but of even more significance was the fact that he moved from the AL park that gave up the most runs in 2005 to join the Padres who’s stadium, PETCO Park, was the most difficult NL park to score a run in last season compared to the league average. What is slightly surprising however is the fact that Young has already surrendered 14 HRs on the year after allowing only 19 last season. This is surprising because Young moved from the second easiest park in baseball to homer in (Arlington) to the most difficult one (PETCO), which means the numbers should be reversed from where they are.

Young has been unconscious in June posting a 1.42 ERA and 0.89 WHIP while holding batters to a .154 batting average, so of course, he has been pitching over his head recently. In fact, I should mention a few other points here that are noteworthy. (1) In his career Young has a 2.98 K/BB ratio, and this year that number is just 2.42. (2) Despite 75 K, his K per 9 IP of 7.9 is just barely above his 7.3 mark for his career. (3) Young has a ratio of 2.46 BB per 9 IP his first two years in the league and that number is up to 3.27 this year. So while his ratios look impressive, there are some signs that he is currently seeing better results than his peripheral numbers suggest he should be.

Roberts (.308-0-25-32-17) has been viewed as a bust by some because they were expecting a repeat of last season’s power numbers (18 HR, 73 RBI). Roberts, who suffered a shoulder injury at the end of last season that required surgery, has never been a power hitter as evidenced by his 12 HRs in 1502 ABs prior to the 2005 season. This season the real hurdle for Roberts has been a troublesome groin, and injury that he has apparently overcome considering the fact he has 8 SB in 19 June games. Roberts game is speed, and if healthy and batting at the top of the Orioles lineup, there is no reason not to expect the SBs to keep coming. Since the all-star break of the 2004 season Roberts has hit .307 in 1,064 ABs, so he should also be able to maintain that average as well which would lead me to say that of these two players, I would rather have Roberts on my roster in the second half.

I was offered Alex Rodriguez for Scott Rolen and Roy Oswalt. My other SPs are: J. Schmidt, A. Cook, J. Westbrook, Jamey Wright, D. Lowe and M. Batista. Should I accept?
-- John


John, based on your pitching staff I don’t think this trade makes much sense for you to accept. Schmidt (6-3, 2.84 ERA, 88 K, 1.09 WHIP) is an ace-like pitcher, but the rest of your rotation, if you were to trade Oswalt, is a hit-and-miss bunch of bottom of the rotation type guys who have a propensity, at one time or another, to give up a ton of hits and for that matter, runs. In fact, depending on the type of league you are in, I wouldn’t be surprised to find Cook, Wright and Batista on the waiver wire right now, so this is definitely not an area of strength on your team.

Rolen is hitting .343 on the year and he has been carrying the Cardinals with Albert Pujols out. Rolen is hitting an amazing .390 with 18 RBIs in 16 games in June, numbers that dwarf the struggling Arod’s in June (.220-2-7). However, you know the old adage of sell high and buy low, so now would be the perfect time to lure the Arod owner in with an offer of Rolen. I would say that if you can make the deal for Arod with Rolen and any of your other pitchers besides Oswalt or Schmidt I would do it. In fact, I would probably trade Rolen and any two of those other pitchers on your staff for Arod since you can assuredly pick up someone off your waiver wire to approximate the performances of those third tier pitchers you currently have.


Ray Flowers, a member of SABR and the Fantasy Sports Writers Association can be reached with comments/questions or suggestions at: ray@fantasybaseball.com. Also don’t forget to listen to his fantasy baseball radio show at www.fantasybaseball.com, where you can call in for live advice, on Friday’s from 2-3 PM EST.

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