BREAKING DOWN: Delmon Young
.228-0-6-3-1 in 57 ABs.
Talk about short memory spans. People are going to read this review and come away with two things. (1) Duh. (2) Are you kidding me? What are the questions that those two points are the answers to? (1) Will Delmon Young rebound to become a force this season? (2) Should I drop him because of his slow start? I'm telling you, I literally get a handful of question each day on Twitter with people asking me about when if should drop Delmon, and we also get calls on The Drive on Sirius XM Fantasy Sports Radio daily about this as well (I'm not making this up). Somehow collective amnesia has set in and people have forgotten that Young was one hit away from going .300-20-100 last year, a level that only 11 big leaguers reached last year. So what should you expect in 2011? Let's start by looking backwards.
Young is just 25 years-old, hard to believe given that he has been an everyday player for four years. He could easily still be working on the upswing of his career, meaning further development is possible. Young flashed some of that last year when he went deep 21 times after hitting just 22 homers the previous two seasons. Young only slightly elevated his HR/F rate (10.6) above his career mark (9.0). The real key was an increase in his fly ball ratio that enabled him to hit more balls skyward. In fact, after posting a poor 1.98 GB/FB ratio in 2008 (Michael Bourn would like that), Young has proceeded to decrease that mark each of the past two seasons to 1.46 and then 1.12 last year. If he can maintain last year’s levels he could legitimately be a 20-homer threat every year.
Looking at his batting average, the guy is money. He may swing at way too many pitches and never take a walk, but he owns a career batting average of .291 and he hit at least .284 in each of his big league seasons. There is simply no downside whatsoever here. So what about his current .228 average? It's a fluke spurred on by a pitiful line drive rate of 12.2 percent and a BABIP that is .066 points below his career mark. When you add in the fact that he is currently walking more than ever while striking out less frequently than his career norm, leading to an impressive for him BB/K mark of 0.56 (career 0.24), you have to know his slump will end soon, right?
So for those of you out there panicking, you can rest assured that Young will be fine. He may never be a substantially better producer than he was last season, but that doesn't mean that he won't put up similar numbers for the next decade. Stay the course - Young will be fine.
BREAKING DOWN: Brandon McCarthy
1-0, 2.45 ERA, 14 Ks, 1.14 WHIP in 22 IP
Perhaps the title of this piece should simply be "The Broken Down: Brandon McCarthy."
At one point in time, McCarthy was viewed by many as the best right-handed pitching prospect in the minors (in 2004 he was selected as the White Sox Minor League player of the year and a Baseball America Minor League All-Star). McCarthy has racked up some might impressive numbers during a minor league career of nearly 600 innings as he has a 3.39 ERA, 1.10 WHIP, a 9.79 K/9 mark and an exquisite 5.26 K/BB mark. But since his star shone so brightly in the minors, McCarthy has devolved into a hot mess of injury who has seen time on the DL seemingly more frequently than he has been on the field. As a result, he has been relegated to being a reserve round selection in single leagues the past few years. However, he altered his mechanics slightly this season to alleviate some of the pressure that his old arm angle was causing, and the results thus far have been wonderful in his first season with the Athletics. The question is, will his success continue?
The first issue to address is McCarthy's health. As great as he has looked, only once in five big league seasons has he thrown even 100-innings, and it's actually not much better the past few years in the minors as he has thrown 31.2, 119 and 78.1 innings the past three years. No matter how good he looks right now, there is simply no way you can avoid the fact that he appears to be the J.D. Drew of pitchers - a talented guy who just can't go every day. Until he goes out and throws 180-innings there is no feasible way you can predict he will be able to do it.
All of the injuries obscure a skill set that is impressive. In addition to his dominating work in the minors, his production in the bigs hasn't been all that bad though it has come nowhere near his scintillating minor league numbers.
21-24, 4.45 ERA, 6.04 K/9, 1.84 K/BB, 1.35 WHIP in 394.2 IP
Besides a drastically reduced K-rate and an increased walk rate, McCarthy has also allowed a lot of big flies (1.25 per nine innings) in his big league career. McCarthy also allows too many fly balls, almost 44 percent of his career batted balls. However, he has been able to drastically alter that this season (25.4 percent). You're all smart enough to know that a guy who owns a 0.85 GB/FB ratio for his career doesn't morph into a 1.89 guy over an offseason. Regression here is a certainty, but again, perhaps the home park will help to offset that (the Coliseum is 10th in the AL in homers the past three seasons according to Park Indices).
As for the strikeouts, unfortunately even with all his success this season the rate hasn't even matched his career mark at 5.73 per nine. It's very tough to consistently produce at the big league level at that rate unless you are (a) a ground ball pitchers - which he is not, or (b) you don't issue any free passes. So far this year McCarthy has walked two batters in 22 innings. You can't expect that pace to continue, but if he can strike out three or four guys for every walk, we could be on to something.
McCarthy has the skills needed to be a successful big league hurler, but he'll need to stay healthy long enough to be able to be a viable mixed league option. There is a lot to like with him right now, he has looked strong going back to spring training, but you need to be careful not to drink the Kool Aid too heavily. Injuries are a huge concern with McCarthy, and there is enough going on out of the norm right now (not walking anyone, his massive drop in fly ball rate etc.) that serious reservations about the level of his performance this season should be at the fore of your thoughts.
WHO AM I?
In 2008 I had a better ERA (3.32) than Dan Haren, Felix Hernandez and Roy Oswalt to name but a few.
In 2008 I had a better WHIP (1.23) than Jon Lester, Jered Weaver and Zack Greinke.
In 2009 I had a better ERA (3.77) than Josh Beckett, Matt Garza and Chad Billingsley. I also had a better WHIP (1.28) than Cole Hamels, Ryan Dempster and Yovani Gallardo.
In 2010 I had a better ERA (3.72) than Ricky Romero, Carl Pavano, Ian Kennedy. I also had a better WHIP (1.22) than Jonathan Sanchez, Max Scherzer, Greinke, Francisco Liriano and Haren.
From 2008-2010, here are my ranks amongst all big league hurlers.
18th in hits per nine innings (8.21).
19th in wins (40).
20th in base runners per nine innings (11.36).
20th in innings pitched (608.1)
22nd in ERA (3.61)
29th in strikeouts (470).
Who Am I?
BY THE NUMBERS
5: The number of times that Juan Pierre has been caught on the bases this year, the worst total in baseball (no one else has been nabbed more than three times). Pierre has only been successful on four attempts. Through 10 percent of the games this year Pierre already has been caught nearly a third of the amount of times that he was last year (18) when he led baseball with 68 thefts.
12: The number of runs that Ian Kinsler has scored this season in 16 games despite a .196 average. If we posit that Kinsler were to continue to score runs and produce hits at his current pace, and to play 150 games, he would end up with 113 runs scored and that .196 average. The worst average ever produced in a season of at least 110 runs scored is .215 by Hugh Nicol in 1887. If we move to the modern era (1901-) the "leader" ends up being Donie Bush who in 1911 scored 126 runs while hitting .232.
14: The AL leading walk total of Francisco Liriano, two less than the NL leader Edinson Volquez (more on the righty in a few moments). As a result Liriano has an anemic 1.00 K/BB ratio, slightly better than Gio Gonzalez (1.17) and Brad Penny (1.08), two of the four guys with 12 walks on the year (the other two are Brad Penny and Charlie Morton). The Pirates' Morton takes the cake though as he has just six punchouts leading to a 0.50 K/BB ratio that is, oh, a quarter of the normal big league average of about 2.00.
15: The big league leading walk total of 15 held by Bobby Abreu, Kevin Youkilis and Jonny Gomes. Abreu has walked 100 times on seven occasions and owns a .400 career OBP. Youkilis has only one 90 walk season, but he owns an impressive .394 career OBP. Gomes? He's never walked more than 61 times in a season, partly because he's only been an everyday player one time, but also because he owns a middling .332 career OBP. I wonder, which one of these guys is going to struggle to keep up his current pace?
29.25: The shockingly high ERA of Edinson Volquez in the first inning this season. From the second inning on his ERA drops to an impressive 1.93. It must be just the sample size, right? Well, if you look at his ERA for his career, per 15 pitch segments, his worst mark is on pitches 1-15 (6.84 ERA).
White Sox hurler John Danks.
Danks may never be a difference maker in the fantasy games, but he is a stable, high performing option, that is about as safe as any in the game. Were you smart enough to roster him this year when others were looking for the "upside" play in the middle rounds?
Ray Flowers can be heard daily on Sirius/XM Radio on The Fantasy Drive, 5-8 PM Eastern, on Sirius 211 and XM 147. Ray's baseball analysis can be found at BaseballGuys.com and his minute to minute musings can be located at the BaseballGuys' Twitter account.