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MLB Barometer: Lincecum Takes a Dive

Kevin Payne

Kevin Payne

Kevin has worked for Rotowire just under a decade and has covered basketball, baseball and football. A glutton for punishment, he roots for his hometown Bills, Sabres and the New York Yankees. He hosts the RotoWire SiriusXM show every Wednesday and Friday and you can follow him on Twitter @KCPayne26.

Upgrades:

Rogearvin Bernadina, OF, Nationals - With Josh Willingham done for the season, Bernadina should see regular playing time the rest of the way. I thought of using Michael Morse here as well, but I think Bernadinaís speed/power combo (9 SB/8 HR) gives him more upside. Bernadina is only 26 and is hitting in a nice spot in the Nats lineup behind sluggers Ryan Zimmerman and Adam Dunn.

Juan Gutierrez, P, Diamondbacks - Gutierrez picked up the save, albeit a shaky one on Saturday night. I actually contemplated putting Sam Demel in the ďcheck statusĒ section last week. I thought Arizona might give him a shot considering the difference between his and Gutierrezís stats and Demelís minor league closing experience. Demel was available Saturday night and was not called upon so it looks like the job is Gutierrezís, at least for now. He could blow up at any time, but heís worth using if youíre desperate for saves.

Yuniesky Betancourt, SS, Royals - Betancourt has been hot during August, and he raised his batting average for the month to .358 during Saturdayís game. Betancourt has hit safely in 12 of his last 14 games and has hit six home runs, including Saturdayís grand slam. Check and see if heís on your waiver wire; grab him if you need some power out of your shortstop spot.

Check Status:

Stephen Strasburg, P, Nationals - In case you havenít heard, Strasburg injured a tendon in his forearm on Saturday and is likely headed back to the DL. Strasburgís MRI will dictate what course the Nationals take, but Iím not too optimistic the way he winced after throwing the pitch. The good news is itís not his elbow or shoulder, and hopefully it was only a strain. It wouldnít be shocking to see the Nationals shut him down for good if anything past a minor injury is diagnosed.

Alex Rodriguez, 3B, Yankees - Rodriguez is on the DL, but the Yankees are labeling this as an extremely cautious move. It sounds like he could be back after the 15 days are up. Speedster Eduardo Nunez (23 steals in 118 Triple-A at-bats) will get a shot at the hot corner while Rodriguez is out.

Colby Rasmus, OF, Cardinals - Rasmus is dealing with a calf strain thatís expected to keep him out a few more games. The good news is itís a minor injury and he wonít be landing on the DL. However, the uncertainty of his return means you should place him on your bench for this week if you own him.

Domonic Brown, OF, Phillies - The good news is Brown will stay with the Phillies after they placed Ross Gload on the DL. The bad news is heíll be used mostly as a pinch-hitter, sans an injury to the outfield. Monitor the Philadelphia outfield and be prepared to pickup Brown should anything happen to one of the three regulars. My next point seems like common sense but Iíll mention it anyway: when a team has two similar prospects as the Phillies did with Michael Taylor and Brown, always take player that was not moved. Both players entered last year very close on most prospect lists, but over a year and a half later itís clear Brown is the superior prospect. Iíd be shocked if Taylor ends up anywhere near the player Brown will be.

Downgrades:

Tim Lincecum, P, Giants - Several readers called for Timmyís downgrade in last weekís Barometer, but I wanted to give him another week to see if he could turn things around. Well, he hasnít. Lincecum now sports a 9.00 ERA over four August starts, spanning only 14 innings. So whatís wrong with the reigning Cy Young winner? For starters, he has been a bit unlucky. The .331 BABIP allowed (.417 in August) is anywhere from 18-36 points higher than any of his three previous seasons. Of course, one should never look at BABIP alone without examining the rest of the numbers. Lincecumís GB, FB and LD rates are all within the same range from last season, meaning he has been a little unlucky. Obviously if his GB rate dropped or his LD rate increased, that would explain the spike in BABIP. His HR/FB rate is up over four percent from each of the previous two seasons, which partially accounts for the rise in ERA, but control appears to be his biggest problem right now. Lincecumís K rate is down while his BB rate is up, almost .78 BB/9 from a season ago. The odd thing about his K rate dropping (from 10.42 K/9 to 9.46 K/9) is that his O-Swing % (30.8) is four percent higher than last year. This would lead to the idea that his K rate should be up with more swings and misses outside of the strike zone. I would speculate that Lincecum is going through some type of ďdead armĒ phase after heavy use the last three seasons. His average fastball has been around 91 this season and has steadily dropped since 2008 (94.0, 92.4 and 91.2). Lincecum has logged 225 and 227 innings the last two seasons and has thrown 9855 pitches since 2008. To put that in perspective, thatís 50 more pitches thrown over that time than workhorse Roy Halladay (9805 for those mathematically challenged). Keep in mind the two have slightly different frames - Halladay has about 60 lbs. and seven inches over Timmy. In my opinion, the Giants need to skip a start or give Lincecum some extra rest soon to see if that helps him recover.

Ricky Nolasco, P, Marlins - Over the weekend the Marlins acknowledged that Nolasco has a torn meniscus and will miss at least one start. This is a best case scenario and with the Marlins not playing for anything this year Iíd expect them to take the cautious route. Nolasco is an easy downgrade as a result, but I thought Iíd take a closer look at him. Every year Nolascoís name gets brought up in the preseason as a sleeper or possible breakout candidate. The truth is he has ended up as a disappointment the last two years. Many prognosticators pointed to the discrepancy between his ERA (5.06) and xFIP (3.28) last year and suggested a huge rebound was in store for him. Nolasco does a good job controlling his walk rate (2.14 BB/9 last year, 1.74 BB/9 this year) while averaging around a strikeout per inning (his 4.60 K:BB ratio rate is second in the majors only to Roy Halladay). However, his 23 home runs given up tie him for the fourth most among pitchers. So while the low walks and high strikeout rate account for the low xFIP, the home runs (which are used in the xFIP formula) really kill his ERA. Throw in a lofty 32 doubles given up (a factor not used in the xFIP formula) and youíve got a recipe for an ERA/xFIP difference. Basically, I think Nolasco is going to be one of those pitchers where xFIP isnít going to be a true indicator of what his ERA will be.

Matt Thornton, P, White Sox - Something isnít right with Thorntonís forearm and a trip to the DL appears to be on the horizon. This is somewhat important if Bobby Jenks falters again or has his back act up. J.J. Putz would solely handle the closing duties in that situation.

Vernon Wells, OF, Blue Jays - Wells got off to a hot start this year, but he has fallen off over the second half. After hitting only .236 in July, Wells hit 8-for-27 (.296) through the first seven games of August. Then think back to Brandon Morrowís sick one-hit, 17 K game against the Rays. Remember the spectacular catch Wells made, banging into the outfield wall and dislocating his toe to preserve the no-no at the time? He ended up sitting out the next game and has played in every game since. Iím beginning to think the toe hasnít fully healed, which has had a negative impact at the plate. Wells is just 6-for-37 (.162) since.

Josh Willingham, OF, Nationals - As previously mentioned, Willingham is out for the year with a knee injury. It was obvious the injury started affecting him more and more at the plate. In 281 at-bats prior to the All-Star break, Willingham hit .281 with 15 homers. Since then he only hit .225 with one home run over 89 at-bats. The surgery should have him ready for spring training. Donít forget those first-half numbers when drafting next year.

Magglio Ordonez, OF, Tigers - Ordonez is likely out for the season as he recovers from a fractured ankle. He was putting together a nice bounce-back season after struggling last year while his wife dealt with a cancer scare. We often forget that players arenít just objects on our fantasy squads, theyíre human too. The point is not to discount a playerís personal life and the potential ramifications it can have on the field.

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