Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Production, First Basemen

Contributed By: Ray Flowers

Each week, for the next eight weeks on Wednesday, I will survey 6 players from each position whose performance is worthy of discussion. I will survey two players at the position who have failed to meet expectations, two who have greatly exceeded the numbers that were anticipated for them and then two players that are worthy of special attention the rest of the season. Some of the names on the list might be the reason that you are in 8th place in your league, while others whom you chose in the 22nd round of your draft might be the reason you currently sit in first place.

Todd Helton (.277-4-18-26 in 155 AB)
Pace: .277-14-62-89-0 with a .861 OPS
Anything below .300 is pretty poor for a hitter with a lifetime .335 average. Of course, Helton was on the DL for a couple of weeks attempting to recover from an intestinal illness that had him in the hospital for a few days. Maybe I’m crazy, but this has to be temporary right? If you remove the month of May (.233-3-9), quite possibly the worst month of his last 7 seasons, he has hit .338 in 65 April and June ABs, right were you would expect him to be. Helton, a career .295 hitter on the road, is hitting a measly .241 this year outside of Coors. For that matter, his career .373 average at home is down to .316 as well. The bottom line is that even if the power is lacking, Helton hits .349 in his career in the second half with a 1.066 OPS, and every month of the season left he has hit at least .324 in his career. This may be the last time you can get him on the cheap.

Mark Teixeira (.299-6-30-33-0 in 221 AB)
Pace: .299-17-87-95-0 with a .859 OPS
This spot could of easily have been taken by Richie Sexson (.214-8-36-22-0) of the Mariners, but considering he was 4th to 6th round draft pick in most leagues, it made more sense to go with “Tex” who was a unanimous first round pick this season. After an amazing season of .301-43-144, Tex is on pace to have the worst power season of his career (his career-lows are 26 HR, 84 RBI). After hitting .334 with 30 HR at Ameriquest Field in 2005, Tex has bit but .252 with 4 HR this year in Texas. He has been hot of late hitting a scalding .414 in his last 11 games with 2 HR and 8 RBIs, but 6 HR and 30 RBI overall are a pathetic total for this proud slugger. Waiver wire pickup Brandon Phillips has 5 HR and 33 RBIs, and he plays second base! Teixeira is too talented not to pick it up, but he is gonna have to really hustle just to reach 30 HR and 100 RBI, totals that were a “given” at the start of the year.

Ben Broussard (.361-8-29-29-0 in 147 AB)

Pace: .361-25-90-90 with a .977 OPS
OK, let me offer some perspective here. Here are Broussard’s career-highs: .275-19-82-59 with a .858 OPS. So what in that line supports what he is doing thus far? Nothing is right. Let’s take a look at his three-year average: of .260-17-68-56 with a .795 OPS. In his career prior to 2006, Ben was a career .263 hitter vs. right handers (1112 ABs), but this year in that situation he has morphed into the second coming of Rogers Hornsby hitting .402 in 122 ABs. Broussard is also hitting .422 at home, .418 at night and .556 in June (10 for 18). There’s an awful long way to fall for a career .261 hitter who happens to be hitting .421 with RISP, so be careful about your expectations the rest of the way. Let’s hope he keeps it going, but if I were a betting man, I’m putting all my money, except for bus fare and enough money to buy some nachos, against this production continuing.

Kevin Youkilis (.317-7-27-42-3 202 AB)
Pace: .317-21-83-128-9 with a 936 OPS
Batting leadoff sure aided Youkilis’ numbers in the runs department, but now that Coco Crisp has returned from injury, Youkilis has been relocated at the bottom of the order which may help his RBI totals slightly, but his days of scoring almost a run per game are over. Youkilis has murdered Orioles pitching this year (.448-1-6) so much so that if you remove those 29 ABs from his ledger, his average drops all the way down to .295 on the season. It’s hard to take away from what he has done thus far, because in truth, he has been great. However, he entered 2006 hitting .265-8-44 in 287 ABs, so his improvement thus far has been sizable and one that doesn’t figure to continue. Only Derrek Lee, Albert Pujols, Travis Hafner, David Ortiz, mark Teixeira and Carlos Delgado amongst first basemen hit .300 with 20 HR, 80 RBI and 100 runs scored last year, and Youkilis’ name surely doesn’t belong anywhere near those names despite the pace he has currently set.

Shae Hillenbrand (.344-9-28-30-0 in 183 AB)

Pace: .344-28-87-94 with a .937 OPS
Guess who leads all 1B eligible players in average right now? That’s right. For a little perspective however, here are what Hillenbrand’s numbers looked like on June 1st last season: .320-6-26-37. Of course, this early season hitter faded to finish at a still respectable .291-18-82-91 line in 2005, but it just goes to show you that the hot start that Hillenbrand usually begins the season with always fades. A career .303 hitter in the first half, Hillenbrand slumps to .277 in the second, still a solid number, but because of his relative lack of power he is best served as being a CI or a UT in a deep mixed league. Keep that in mind before you get too giddy with his start, though he does still have the potential to hit .320-20-80 this year, so don’t totally discount him moving forward.

Chris Shelton (.293-11-28-26-0 in 191 AB)
Pace: .293-32-81-75 with a .908 OPS
I wrote an Impact Report earlier this year in which I pulled out my crystal ball and predicted a .290-29-95 season for Shelton (it was published on April 16th when he was hitting .571-7-14 in 9 games. See: APRIL 16th, Impact Report: Chris Shleton). At this point his pace has him right about on those marks, so why are people disappointed with his play? The simple answer is expectations. In his career before 2006, Shelton hit .288-22-74 in 162 games (524 ABs), so what he is on pace to do this year is slightly better than that. How could that make anyone upset or disappointed? The only way I could see that occurring is if you picked him up in a trade after the season began because if you missed his April (.326-10-20-17), you have gotten virtually nothing from your 1B position (.263-1-8-9 in 99 ABs). He started off unconscious, recently he has been horrible, but overall, a.290/30 HR pace from your 1B who was likely a waiver wire or late round pick should leave you with nothing to complain about.


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