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Circling the Bases: Breaking Down Ryan Roberts

BREAKING DOWN: Ryan Roberts
.268-8-24-31-9 in 164 ABs

Third base has been a mess this year. Evan Longoria, David Wright, Ryan Zimmerman, Pedro Alvarez and Pablo Sandoval have spent time on the DL. Aramis Ramirez isn't going deep, Mark Reynolds isn't hitting his weight, Casey McGehee stinks and Ian Stewart is currently in the minors (more on Stewart can be found below in By the Numbers). Given all of that, Roberts has been a player of note at the position because he has more homers than Wright and Sandoval, more RBI than Ramirez, more runs scored than Reynolds and more steals than every third base eligible player in the game other than Mike Aviles and David Wright.

The tattooed one - the guy has more ink on him than a printing press operator - Roberts had a 1.007 OPS in April to get everyone excited. Unfortunately, that number regressed to .729 in May and is sitting at .667 through five contests in June. So which player is Roberts? Hopefully you already know the answer to that question, but with people still inquiring about Roberts given the problems at third base, I thought I'd spend a moment to enlighten you. Roberts has hit .256 with 18 homers, 59 RBI and 83 runs scored over 562 big league at-bats. Think Casey Blake and you wouldn't be too far off. The difference for Roberts is the fact that he has swiped 16 bags in that time, and there just aren't many third base eligible players who can go 15/15. In fact, there were only two last season – Wright and Longoria. This alone makes Roberts someone of interest.

However, Roberts simply isn't that good a hitter. Consider the following.

His 0.63 BB/K mark for his career is barely better than league average (about 0.50 year after year). It's highly dubious he will be able to keep up his current mark of 0.87.

For his career he owns a slash line of .256/.335/.414. The league average since 2006 is .263/.335/.414. I don't need to tell you that makes him a league average performer.

Since his career began in 2006, Roberts has hit 18 homers with 59 RBI and 83 runs scored, in 562 at-bats. In that time the league average, per 560 ABs, is 16 homers, 71 RBI and 74 runs scored. Again, nothing but league average.

In eight seasons in the minors Roberts has hit .274, though he has shown a solid ability to get on base with a .373 OBP. However, per 560 at-bats, Roberts’ minor league numbers would equate to a .275-20-84-90-13. What were his numbers in 562 career at-bats again? How about .256-18-59-83-16, numbers that fall right in line with what his minor league production would suggest.

It's all about playing time here. Roberts won't return to the hitter he was in April, but that doesn't mean he won't be an effective corner infield option in mixed leagues if the D'backs continue to run him out there every day. He's not likely to hit for any average, and his counting numbers are pretty standard fair, but his ability to steal bases should allow him to continue to be an effective, albeit less than exciting, corner option for those of you who are in desperate need of production from the position.

BREAKING DOWN: Mat Latos
4-6, 3.94 ERA, 60 Ks, 1.31 WHIP in 64 IP

Last season Latos was a star as he finished 13th in baseball in ERA (2.92), 9th in WHIP (1.08) and won 14 games while striking out 189 batters in 184.2 innings. However, he struggled mightily down the stretch last season with a 1-5 record, 5.66 ERA and 1.51 WHIP over his last seven starts. Way back in January I voiced my concern about the massive innings pitched increase that Latos had racked up in The Verducci Effect. Latos didn't just add 30 innings from season to season, he added 60 innings in back-to-back seasons, an astounding ascent for such a young arm. Through six starts this season he was 0-5 with a 4.86 ERA and people were running from him like you would from a zombie walking down the street looking to suck out your brain. Since that low point things have turned around for Latos. Not only has he gone 4-1, but his ERA has been a near identical match to last season at 2.93 and his WHIP has dropped to 1.27. So where does he currently sit and what should you expect moving forward?

On the year, Latos owns a strong 8.44 K/9 mark. That is a step down from his 9.21 mark from last season, but it's still at a level that is borderline elite. However, his reduction in punchouts has not been accompanied by a reduced walk rate, as he is issuing nearly a batter more free passes per nine innings versus last year (3.38 compared to 2.44). On the plus side he has walked more than two batters once in his last eight starts, but it would still be nice to see him return to last year's levels rather than sit at the big league average, especially with the dip in punchouts.

Latos has allowed more homers this year, 1.13 per nine compared to his 0.78 mark last season, but it's not really a “lucky” type scenario. Latos has seen his HR/F ratio increase by a mere percent to 9.0. The reason his homer rate has gone up is because he's allowing more fly balls than ever before – 48 percent of batted balls. That's a large total that Petco is certainly helping to mask. Currently Latos has a poor 0.83 GB/FB ratio. In fact, Latos should be doing even better than he is right now if you look at his line drive rate which is a mere 12.4 percent. However, this does bring up a potential issue. There is little chance he keeps that mark as low as it is – even last season when he was terrific it was 15 percent – and since more liners end up as hits than any type of batted ball there is a chance that he will start giving up more hits moving forward. Question is, will his fly ball rate regress or will his ground ball rate inch upwards?

As I see it, Latos is in line to have a solid season. Last year's effort was unlikely to be repeated this season. At the same time expecting his ERA to go up a full run, for his K/9 mark to drop a full batter and his BB/9 rate to shoot up a full batter wouldn't have been in the cards. There are still workload concerns in my mind, but Latos has pitched better of late, still owns a dynamic right arm, and he gets to pitch his home games at Petco. All of that still makes him an intriguing, and potential high end, option in mixed leagues moving forward.

WHO AM I?

Amongst pitchers who have thrown 250 innings since 2007 my 2.33 ERA is third best in the game behind only Mariano Rivera (2.03) and Scott Downs (2.30). I know you would have never put Downs as number two on this list, so don't try to tell me you did.

Amongst pitchers who have thrown 250 innings since 2007 my 9.61 base runners per nine innings is fourth best in the game behind only Rivera (8.51), Rafael Betancourt (9.51) and Huston Street (9.53).

Amongst pitchers who have thrown 250 innings since 2007 my 6.67 hits allowed per nine innings is second best in the game behind only Carlos Marmol (4.97).

Amongst pitchers who have thrown 250 innings since 2007 my 9.61 K/9 mark is 15th best in the game.

Amongst pitchers who have thrown 250 innings since 2007 my 3.76 K/BB mark is 14th best in the game.

Since the start of the 2007 season my total of 139 saves is 7th best in the game. If we allow the sample size to shrink to 2008 through yesterday my total of 122 saves are sixth best total in the game.

Who Am I?

BY THE NUMBERS

.631: The OPS of Justin Morneau through 52 games and 203 at-bats. Amongst players with at least 185 plate appearances this season, Morneau is currently 151st behind such luminaries as Brendan Ryan (.637), Carlos Gomez (.638) and Juan Pierre (.649). Embarrassing.

1.120: The OPS of Jay Bruce since the calendar flipped to May. In those 32 games Bruce has hit .344 with 13 homers and 35 RBI. If we extrapolate that out to a season of 160 games we end up with a .344-65-175 line. Pretty sure he's not that good.

1.192: The OPS of Ian Stewart in 22 games at Triple-A this season. Stewart has hit eight homers, driven in 23 runs, scored 17 times and posted a slash line of .338/.452/.740. Clearly he has nothing to prove at that level. However, will the Rockies ever give him another shot at significant playing time or will he need a fresh start with another club?

1.570: The OPS of Albert Pujols in five games in June during which time he has hit four homers, knocked in seven runs, scored nine times and stolen a base for good measure. Albert certainly struggled to start the year, and he's still hitting .278, but with this recent hot streak he's still on pace to hit 35 homers while knocking in 101 runs while crossing home plate 112 times. Not bad for a guy who everyone said was sucking wind two weeks ago.

3: The number of pitchers in big league history who recorded their 1,000th strikeout in fewer batters faced than Tim Lincecum. The Freak struck out his 1,000th batter Monday night in the 3,692nd at-bat against him. The only three hurlers to accomplish the trick quicker are Billy Wagner, Octavio Dotel and Kerry Wood.

9: The highest steal total of any player who has yet to be caught on an attempt. Carlos Gomez is close with 14 steals and one caught stealing, but the most successful man this season who has yet to be caught is Jarrod Dyson. Given that Dyson was sent to the minors three weeks ago, he might continue to lead this category for a while.

12: The number of times that Cliff Lee has recorded at least 10 punchouts over his last 38 starts. What makes that number so remarkable is that he recorded a mere three 10-K games in his first 193 starts. He's also tossed five games this season with 10 strikeouts and one or zero walks. No other pitcher in the game has more than two such outings in 2011.

I AM...

The Royals' reappointed closer, Joakim Soria. Despite a pronounced slump to start the year, Soria still has some elite marks in his brief career including the 5th best ERA, 9th best base runner per nine innings, the 14th best K/BB ratio, the 15th best hit per nine mark and the 40th best K/9 mark of any pitcher to hurl at least 250-innings since 1950.


Ray Flowers can be heard daily on Sirius/XM Radio on The Fantasy Drive, 5-8 PM Eastern, on Sirius 210 and XM 87. Ray's baseball analysis can be found at BaseballGuys.com and his minute to minute musings can be located at the BaseballGuys' Twitter account.